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An xGW Primer (Abridged)

Since my good friends Zenpundit, tdaxp and General of the Hordes Subadei Ba'adur have offered primers on the "generational" model of different approaches to warfighting, I respectfully offer this abbreviated primer:

"Zeroth" Generation Warfare:

First Generation Warfare:

Second Generation Warfare:

Third Generation Warfare:

Fourth Generation Warfare:

Fifth Generation Warfare:

Too bad Mel Gibson (the architect of warfighting archetypes) wasn't in the ultimate 5GW movie:

Class dismissed...

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At 9/8/07 20:02 , Blogger Dan tdaxp said...

Very neat idea.

I agree on 0GW,1GW,2GW,3GW.

My choice for 4GW.

My choice for 5GW.

At 9/8/07 20:19 , Blogger deichmans said...

The Matrix as 4GW? No way, brah! :-)

Since I haven't seen "Why We Fight", I will withhold judgment on your 5GW choice.

At 10/8/07 00:44 , Blogger Curtis Gale Weeks said...

Hah, this reminds me of a layout I did for xGW based on the LOTR movies.

Maybe I'll have to post it at Phatic Communion now...

At 10/8/07 05:51 , Blogger Vinay Gupta - Hexayurt Project said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 10/8/07 06:01 , Blogger Vinay Gupta - Hexayurt Project said...

Fight Club


I think that the 5GW example I give there is *definitive.*

Yes, you'll probably feel a certain sense of shock and disorientation, but if you think about the three places this approach to struggle was tried (against the British, against the South Africans, and in America) you'll see that it works. This is "clean" or "efficient" 5GW.

I'm sure there are also messy, low grade versions, but I think this is the Real Thing as carried out by masters of the art.

As John Boyd says, war has moral, mental and physical levels. The notion that more refined forms of war push back up the OODA loop is good, but I think the motion is both up the OODA loop, and up the levels of war towards the moral. Boyd makes this point when he talks about how a very high quality victory in a maneuver warfare can cost only a fraction of the lives involved in winning the same situation by attrition.

Gandhi's approach was to win completely on the moral level, and to sacrifice capability on the physical level to preserve that absolute moral authority. The British had a choice: lose their image of themselves by killing him, and risk bloodshed on an incredible scale, or let him run around and cause so much trouble that leaving began to seem like a pretty good idea. This doesn't deny the role of the threat of armed force, or other players in the game, but Gandhi gave the British an exit strategy which did not involve a military defeat, which also mattered.

If the "get off of my land" factions in Iraq (as opposed to the "death to America" factions) had been using this kind of approach, the odds are we would have left several years ago. They would have got political control of their country, we would have got to leave a peaceful, stable situation behind us when we went, and everybody wins.

Armed struggle has proven to be costly and ineffective as a way for the "get off my land" faction in Iraq.

Perhaps we should start translating Gandhi into Arabic, with good historical accounts of his success in India, and Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela's respective histories. Anyone have a problem with people making salt for their right to live under Sharia?



At 10/8/07 08:30 , Blogger deichmans said...

Vinay: I'll see your Ghandi, and raise you one Passion (remaining true to my Mel Gibson Metric for xGW :-).

At 10/8/07 10:17 , Blogger Unknown said...


What's interesting about Gandhi is that if you ignore the religious stuff entirely, and just deal with it as economic theory and political action, it's much easier to understand *how he got stuff done.*

In many ways the religious dimensions of his work are distractions from the tactics. Yeah, it's the language he spoke to get people motivated, but I think that if he'd been operating in a country with a Marxist population, it still would have worked. He'd just have appealed to communist brotherhood rather than God.

At 10/8/07 12:32 , Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Apocalypto" opens with a quote from the historian and philosopher Will Durant: "A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within."

Mel Gibson sound very "5GW" in APOCALYPTO ... remember the image of the big boats and the priest at the end ...


At 10/8/07 13:44 , Blogger Dan tdaxp said...

Matrix: Very 4G. An earnest 4G organization battles against a state that sees it as a nuisance, and responds with a 1G police action. The Zion Organization is a more stylish view of the profoundly worthless Symbioniese Liberation Army.

At 10/8/07 14:28 , Blogger deichmans said...

Warfare 2050: Good comment -- I regret to say I am probably the only person on this thread who has not yet seen Apocalypto! I will PPV it this weekend.

Dan: Interesting correlation in The Matrix. Does the target of the campaign (e.g., Morpheus and the legions of Zion against the police state of the Architect) matter when defining the "x" of xGW? I will agree that the Zionists were fighting a 4GW war, while the Architect had already achieved a 5GW victory.

At 10/8/07 17:31 , Blogger Vinay Gupta - Hexayurt Project said...

A short clip of Mel Gibson's Gandhi.

(yeah, yeah, I know, but you get the idea!)

At 10/8/07 19:18 , Blogger Purpleslog said...

I think Ghandi and the movement was 4GW, not 5GW. The standard view of 4GW is two narrow, it is ore then advanced/evolved guerrilla warfare. http://purpleslog.wordpress.com/2006/06/23/nazis-as-proto-4gw/

I saw "Apocalypto" a few weeks ago on DVD. I had captions on and the director's commentary (which was sparse and not intrusive). The movie was brilliant. The scenery, the story, the acting. I loved it.

At 10/8/07 19:50 , Blogger Unknown said...

The thing about Gandhi was that it was mass movement. Like 4GW I typically thing of as being relatively small numbers of combatants who are doing violence for political effect, sometimes with tactic support from a wider population.

And, yeah, you can look at the Gandhi game from that perspective - just that he got more enrollment from the normally-silent supporters.

But I think the pivot here is that Gandhi *left the other side no room to stand at a moral level.*

Just swept the board in the perception of both the general public on both sides and then proceeded to generally run amuck and do what he liked. Yes, he was backed up by the violent option, the armed revolutionaries were his partners... but he made something new.

The evidence that it's a technique comes from the fact that it was re-applied in South Africa and America with similar effects. It directly substitutes for armed struggle, and is mainly fought in the minds and hearts of one's opponents - taking the battle all the way inside them.

But it's not tied to Gandhi any more - it's worked outside of India in very different circumstances.

The link to 5GW is the idea that the battlefield is the mind.

At 10/8/07 22:14 , Blogger Dan tdaxp said...


Very good thoughts.

When the battlefield is the mind, the struggle takes place in Orientation, so it's 4GW.
5GW, by contrast, uses the eye as the battlefield -- the information never gets to the mind.


Ah, I get you.

War ultimately is war, and each side fights at as they see fit.

Zion / Symbiona were fighting a 4GW struggle.
The Robots / USA were fighting a 1GW police action against bandits, while the 5GW that keeps it all in motion had been released a long time before.

At 11/8/07 03:00 , Blogger Curtis Gale Weeks said...


"The evidence that it's a technique comes from the fact that it was re-applied in South Africa and America with similar effects. It directly substitutes for armed struggle, and is mainly fought in the minds and hearts of one's opponents - taking the battle all the way inside them.

But it's not tied to Gandhi any more - it's worked outside of India in very different circumstances.

The link to 5GW is the idea that the battlefield is the mind."

Actually, it may have begun with Ralph Waldo Emerson and/or Henry David Thoreau:

"One might even suppose that Emerson was a 5GWarrior par excellence, considering the extraordinary influence he had on those around him and the reverberating influence those individuals have had....

Henry David Thoreau is famous for his essays — Ghandi declared that his essay on 'Civil Disobedience' was one of his bedside books and wrote a translated synopsis of it in 1907, and Martin Luther King, Jr., who was greatly influenced by Ghandi, nonetheless also had read HDT’s essay several times in his 'student days' — but he is also famous for living at Walden Pond — which was owned by Emerson. Emerson met Thoreau when Thoreau was still in Harvard, nearly twenty years old, in 1837; Emerson, a decade older; and they had a lifelong friendship lasting until Thoreau died in 1862. For me, it is curious to wonder who influenced whom the most, between the two"

-- from "Emersonian Circles" at D5GW.

At 11/8/07 03:14 , Blogger Curtis Gale Weeks said...


When the battlefield is the mind, the struggle takes place in Orientation, so it's 4GW.

I think you are abridging far too much. I can't help but disagree strongly with this truism. You are abridging the OODA and presenting a straw man: as if, something can happen in the mind entirely separate from the reality outside the mind -- or, vice versa.


5GW, by contrast, uses the eye as the battlefield -- the information never gets to the mind.

That seems pretty egregiously wrong. In fact, we want the information to go into the mind; see my mapping of the OODA and xGW, particularly the information flows we want for either 4GW/5GW. One might say that the difference between the two is in how easily the information moves from the eye, through the Abstract OODA (Concrete Orient), and to the action with less hindrance in 5GW than in 4GW efforts. Suddenly, as I write this, I wonder if the distinction could be made:

In 4GW, the target reacts against the information, whereas,

In 5GW, the target reacts with the information, or in agreement with it (even if he doesn't like it, he accepts it as true, or the true lay of the land, the unavoidable reality.)

-- a crude and quick thought, which might require polishing or further examination!

At 11/8/07 05:38 , Blogger Unknown said...

I think part of the issue here is that the xGW models of war typically don't discuss how the political goals at each stage change. I think the understanding of why we fight and what "war" is is a critical part of the terrain. When there was no nation state and no political process beyond Divine Right of Kings, things like 5GW may have existed in attempts to manipulate the perception of the King or his advisers - but there was probably little purpose in trying to sway the perception of an entire population because they didn't vote.

The victory conditions have changed - in both Iraq and Vietnam, the people we are fighting against have generally completely failed to exploit the America public's distaste for war. They've played to their own public - like the Jihad videos are all about looking big and dangerous - rather than playing to our public and our desire for war to be over.

When that changes, and we see enemies who understand that the only path to victory is to influence American public feeling and policy by appearing not to be people we should be fighting with, I think it will become much, much harder to execute war. In a networked world, it's just going to get harder and harder to fight because the civilian consequences can no longer be hidden. Imagine if armed struggle broke out in a place with 50% broadband penetration!

I think the game is changing in a way which permanently moves the equilibrium towards sustainable peace. Consider this scenario. What happens when politics crosses national borders, when leaders lead not political parties in a single nation, but begin to set global policies by coordinated action among voters of different nations?

The game is changing. That's the background against which I see future struggles.

And, yes, Gandhi was a big fan of Emerson and Thoreau. The system has been jumping back and forth across cultures for quite some time.

At 11/8/07 15:08 , Blogger Purpleslog said...

4GW does take place in the mind to some extent. It is all about getting messages across to the adversary, the adversary's supporters, neutrals and the like. That would be the Hammes's definition anyways.

4GW is not terrorism or guerrilla warfare.

4GW is about collapsing the numerically or economically superior enemy's will to continue the fight.

The 4GWer forms messages (by terrorism, guerrilla operations, mass demonstrations, and other domains not considered to warfare per say) to get the adversary to quit, to get the adversary's supporters to back off, to get neutrals on their side, and strengthen the will/determination of the its own supporters. Think warfare as theater.

At 12/8/07 07:32 , Blogger Sean Meade said...

great post, Shane. and great comments

At 12/8/07 08:18 , Blogger Dan tdaxp said...

PurpleSlog, I agree.

Curtis, I don't disagree. I phrased myself poorly. I disagree with Vinay (he's smart, but I don't think he understands the material yet), but I could have expressed myself better.

At 13/8/07 14:34 , Blogger Vinay Gupta - Hexayurt Project said...

Yeah, I'm not too terribly up on the nGW model. I think that there's a pretty good chance that 4GW is just pretty much what groups fighting larger, better-armed opponents have always done - smart, sneaky and social.

A lot of it also depends on your definitions of war. The Gandhi thing is interesting because, if it is 4GW, then you can have 4GW with the **larger** force using the more advanced tactics. I'm not sure that's something that's been through through yet.

Where do you guys put Mao on this scale?

At 15/8/07 08:50 , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think Hammes handles Mao pretty well in The Sling and the Stone. Time! I need more time...

At 21/8/07 18:30 , Blogger Jay@Soob said...


Most would put (in the Lindian aspect of what you refer to as nGW) Mao as the catalyst of 4GW via his manifesto on guerrilla warfare. [1]

1. http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/mao/works/1937/guerrilla-warfare/


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