5th Generation War

Discussion in 'Staff College and Staff Officers' started by Jailorinummqasr, Oct 24, 2006.

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  1. I am trying to rationalise some ideas at the moment. I am not at Staff College but would be grateful on other peoples views, to help contextualise my ideas.

    What is 5th generation warfare? It is apparent that the US Military Industrial complex is moving to greater emphasis on 5th Generation Technology, JSF (Gen 4.5), F22 (Gen 5), Stryker (Gen 4.5), etc etc....with this huge capability in terms of delivering firepower, within a rapidly changing battlespace, the decision cycle is very small and in theory they can defeat an enemy by completely destroying the enemy decision cycle and military capability almost at will. In essence destroying the CoG or CoGs very quickly at little cost to either party. [The cost is relative to the cost of 3rd Generation war e.g. WWII.]

    The problem I have with this future is that whilst they and ‘us’ in coalition with them can win decisively in terms of Clausewitz. Have we won? We have destroyed the ability of the country to fight but in all probability we have not destroyed the will of the people, either because they did not support their government or because they do not fear this potent technology. I believe that we are seeing this in Iraq and in the Occupied Territories, not 4th generational warfare as defined by Xammes but a new 5th generation, where the nation state is no longer the key actor. The question is if this 5th Generation war is the future how democratic countries defeat the will of people who transgress traditional boundaries. Is the logical follow on from 5th Generation warfare the end of Armed Forces as we know it and in effect war can only be won by buying or inducing changes in countries that oppose us? (As democracies at present can not stomach wholesale liquidation of enemy peoples) I think that Iran, Pakistan (if Musharaf goes), Egypt, Syria are countries where 3th, 4th and 5th generation war will all fail. Worse China, Russia are perhaps so large and capable at projecting 3rd/4th generation equipment that a traditional war of attrition will develop and either party and a 5th Gen adversary would consume themselves if conflict ever arose.

    I am mad or confusing 5th Gen Tech with the concept of 4th Generation war?
  2. I have never heard of 5th Generation War although I am very familiar with 4th Generation War (4GW) and know some of the theorists personally. T. X. Hammes argues that 4GW is an evolution of traditional insurgency, but other writers, notably William Lind, would define 4GW in the way you infer. There is therefore no need to postulate a further generation to the 4GW construct. It is worth pointing out that 'generations' of technology are not part of the 4GW construct and therefore they should be kept distinct.
  3. It is a developing theory, seems to shift like the sands and dances off into dreamland at times. All the same, some hold it to be the key to resolving all future conflicts. Others hold it to be complete BS doomed to failure being a highly developed form of putting toxins in Castro's boot polish to make his trademark beard fall out

    have a punt through this, then a few stiff drinks:


    "If traditional war centered on an enemy's physical strength, and 4GW on his moral strength, the 5th Generation of War would focus on his intellectual strength. A 5th Generation War might be fought with one side not knowing who it is fighting. Or even, a brilliantly executed 5GW might involve one side being completely ignorant that there ever was a war. It's like the old question of what was the perfect robbery: we will never know, because in a perfect robbery the bank would not know that it was robbed."

    In limited 5GWs, removing the enemy's "capacity for independent action" is the goal. Specifically, the fighter tries to entangle the enemy into a web of obligations that effectively reharmonize the enemy, without the enemy knowing that he has "conditionally surrendered
  4. Talking about 5GW does, however, make you sound very smart indeed.

    Genius, or Madman? You decide.
  5. 5GW sounds like semantics to me. Subterfuge, espionage, Machiavelli and Sun Tzu by another name. It's always been fought, it always will be fought. Supposedly, in 5GW the other side won't know we're fighting, but neither could we because that kind of information is hard to keep from the world. Are we talking about shadowy wars fought by elites sworn to secrecy? Great. Sounds like today to me. Sign me up for the CIA.

    I hope I'm not talking out of my arrse here, but I don't believe that integrated battlespace technology has as much to do with the prosecution of next-generation warfare as do cellphones and the internet.
    All our overwhelming technology and firepower does is force the enemy to abandon symmetrical warfare, hence 4GW. Our own technology dooms us to failure because the enemy adapts to it easily while we in turn can't adapt to them because we're over-reliant on high-tech. How on earth does the F22 win the kind of conflict Hammes described? Nuts! What you described in your first paragraph sounded like nothing more than high-tech 3GW maneuver warfare to me.

    You then picked up what Bill Lind goes on about in terms of forecasting the death of the nation state. I'm not so sure if that's the case, and perhaps nor are you.
    H. John Poole has written a lot of handy (slightly nutty) books about 4GW infantry tactics. Keeping in mind that 4GW is defined by the blurring of the boundaries between military and society, one lesson I pulled from Phantom Soldier was that Western states have trouble understanding 4GW because we haven't yet practiced it ourselves. Can you effectively practice 4GW as a state? Well, some states have. Phantom Soldier described the Vietnamese border conflict with China. A good example of the integration of the military and society versus an enemy in a state-on-state conflict.

    4GW right now is only visible as a defensive measure. I don't believe anyone has made the leap from defensive to offensive 4GW yet. That's what eludes us. Otherwise, we'd have figured out how to win in Iraq - starting with the elimination of our Huge Defensive Footprint on the ground.

    Maybe 5GW is a way of vocalizing our realization that we can't win 4GW because we haven't learned how to alter societies' opinions? How could we win in Iraq? Well, if we could make the Iraqis believe that a secular democracy is the most important thing in their lives and something worth dying for, that would do the trick. How can we achieve that? Well, friggin' telepathy or microwaves into the brains, or some other fancy futuristic warfare mumbo jumbo might do it - although allocating aid money correctly, not torturing prisoners and stamping out corruption would be a start...

    Which leads me to:

    With all due respect, I've delved into this theoretical stuff for the past five years, and it's all pretty b0ll0cks. Like a bunch of college students debating the relative merits of Marxism <snore>.

    We still haven't figured out how do deal with the Iraqi insurgency. I'm incredulous that the powers at the top haven't yet sat down and gone
    "How do we minimize the enemy's strengths?"
    "Well, we could prevent him from targeting our patrols with IEDs and snipers."
    "How do we do that?"
    "By sneaking around, blending in, hiding."
    "Hmm...you mean out-G'ing the G? Let's do it."
    Once we've done that or whatever it takes to win, I'll turn to 5GW. Right now, the only thing I can think about 4GW is how it's Total War by another name, and how we're trying to come up with all sorts of theoretical excuses to avoid having to solve practical realities. Right now. On the ground.

    Remember BBB.
  6. Not heard of 5GW. 4GW has its critics though - there are those that think that the logic of the generations is far too tidy (William Lind did, after all, develop it to teach the history of warfare to the USMC) and that 4GW is just Counter Insurgency for today, itself not a new concept at all.

    The problem with COIN is that the US have forgotten how to do it. They were actually quite good at it in Vietnam (lost the war but won the battles) but don't like to admit this, as anything to with Vietnam is kept under the carpet.

    The other problem is that Tommy Atkins is still quite good at COIN - but we can't have Unlce Sam asking Tommy for advice now, can we?

    Anyway, have a read of this. - written by an American and throws some interesting light on the whole 4GW concept.

    If you still think that 4GW holds water, then good luck looking for the 5th Generation.
  7. While as a veteran of the Vietnam War, I appreciate Adjutant's comment that the US was "quite good at [COIN" in that war, I believe it may be a bit of an overstatement. In his defense, I realize it was more an aside given the thrust of the primary thread.

    My own study suggests that relative "success" of the US at COIN in VN depends on when and where one looks. IMHO, the US strategically did a poor job in that it (we) never seemed to understand one of the basic principles of war--the objective. At the operational level, we suffered a similiar malady in focusing on combat engagements "won" or "lost" without appreciating the asymmetric (of course that concept was not yet a part of our lexicon) nature of that conflict.

    It is primarily on the tactical level that the US occasionally seemed to understand the better way to fight such a war. Examples include some of the operations and tactics used by the Army Special Forces and the "too little, too late" Combined Action Program of the Marines in the I Corps AOR. Indeed, some of the "initiatives" (some would say reactions) we are now seeing in Iraq look very much like the CAP approach.
  8. I don't think 4GW is the same as COIN. COIN can be a part of it of course, but rather more significantly I think is that 4GW goes beyond thinking about conflict by prescription (eg it's an insurgency, therefore we should apply COIN doctrine (even if it is loose application at that)). More likely is that, although justified to a domestic and international audience under COIN terms, what a deployed military might encounter is more than insurgent activity (ie, combatants with a genuine political aim in mind); it will also likley encounter simple criminal activity (where aims are for, say, illegitimate individual/small group profit) and also the efforts of other 'spoilers' who, for one reason or another (usually another) are there to just fck it all up for those pressing the Liberal/Democratic ideal (that'll be us then).