Am I Understanding the Gist of the Global Guerilla Concept? [Updated]

I am not sure if I understand John Robb’s Global Guerrillas Concept. Here is my summary of what I think it is:

The actions of the GGs are trying to:

Am I understanding this all correctly?

I am looking forward to the GG book and all of the discussions that will follow.

Update: GG is likely a 3GW variant. See the discussion in the comments.

Update: GG is not 5GW as was pointed out by Curtis (though a 5GW actor could manipulate or make use a GG or its environment). That was a typo on my part that I have corrected.

Update: More discussion at TDAXP on this.

Update: John Robb has a post responding to the TDAXP post

Update: Zenpundit post responding to the TDAXP post

Update: Here is an old comment by TDAXP on a ZenPundit GG vs. PNM Theory post. TDAXP suggests GG might be a new form of 3GW and makes this point: “Global Guerrillaism’s flaw is that it is Clausewitzian: it wants to attack the strong-point of rich states — money and technology — with money and technology.”

Update: Here is a recent comment by Curtis Gale Weeks/Phatic Communion on a Coming Anarchy post entitled Leaderless resistance. Among other things, Curtis says: “What happens when these different “disconnected” groups begin warring on each other because they are quite unalike in various ways? That would show the lie that some singular “leaderless” movement has formed”

Update: Curtis Gale Weeks/Phatic Communion has a new post that is both broad and deep entitled “Lind, Robb, Dan, PurpleSlog, CGW”. It covers 3GW, 4GW, 5GW, the rethinking of the the previous, The xGW framework overall, GG, phenomenon vs emergence, stability/resilience vs. open source…well lots of stuff. I have read it and impressed. I am going to print it out and read it again later and comment on it later tonight.

Update: BlahSploitation calls me (Purpleslog) a GG skeptic. The point of my post was not express skepticism. Instead, I was try to seek clarity on what may be an important (but fuzzy) concept. I think Robb’s forthcoming book might help on that.

Update: Jeez…I used the correct spelling for Bazaar throughout.

Update: Robb’s book – Brave New War – will be out soon.

Update: Discussion begins anew at TDAXP:

Final thoughts: The systempunkt does not exist, open source warfare is suicidal for groups that practice it, and bazaars of violence are regular but unstable features of social life in unstable countries. For this reason, Robb’s theory rely on super-altruistic global guerrillas, who practice open source warfare despite its high costs in order to extend the life of violence bazaars.

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20 Responses

  1. Purpleslog,

    I love this post. I agree with you that GG is not 4GW. In particular

    Bizarre of Violence as Center of Gravity (GG action not driven by ideology, religions, ethnicity…not meme driven)

    is a great summary.

    Could GG be considered a form of 3GW?

  2. Hmm. GG as 3GW?

    Maybe. That might just be it. They certainly don’t have same goals or 4GW. GG operations are not designed to send 4GW messages like “you can’t win this, you shouldn’t even try”.

    The GG are in a way light infantry forces with additional special skills and tactics operating in a specific unique environment.

    I usually shorthand to myself 3GW as WW1 Stormtroopers, WW2 Patton/Rommel armored/mechanized maneuver forces, Israel boldness and initiative in the 1967 War or the newer high tech version NCW/EBO.

    Is there a reason a Light Infantry variant of 3GW could not appear?

    Dan, I think you nailed it. GG is a 3GW variant.

  3. Heh, this is pretty good, you two. Lightning attacks, but on the personal level to outsmart the collective/brigade/etc. level lightning attacks (or c/b/e. pre-3GW holding patterns….) Greater maneuverability.

    Obviously, I don’t like the “It is 5GW” line…

    I still maintain, (and would link my prior considerations, if they weren’t so spread out), that Robb’s GG theory makes a very, very big mistake in assuming that no “common motivation” would be behind the GG. My argument against his leap of faith, in this case, would be related to 1) the mistake people make when assuming that the different items being compared in metaphor are identical, when in fact they are not, or 2) mistaking patterns seen via horizontal thinking for real “observable” entities when in fact it is a mish-mash, a mix-and-match.

    And, Dan, I’ll tie that to a short comment I recently made at your site: When horizontal or consilient thinkers leap ahead to find a vertical line, they often err.

    Please excuse my metaphysics/metaphorizing… ;)

  4. Dang…I wrote too late…I meant to type “it is NOT 5GW”. I have found when typing when I am stressed or tired that I leave out the negative words: not, never, no, etc. I will correct.

  5. Perhaps the “Common Motivation” is just a matter of how finely the motivations of the groups are looked at (low-level vs high-level). GG is an evolving concept too so there will be variations and hits or misses. Considering it as a 3GW form may help fill in some of the blanks.

  6. Part of my evolving concept of GG is this: That Robb’s describing an emergence similar to the emergence of a higher incidence of cancer when more carcinogens are pumped into the air. There is no “Global Guerrilla” movement, nor will be, because if there were it would be something like a combination of 3GW-mutated and 4GW. (One describes the tactics — lightning — whereas the other implies the glue, or motivation, behind it.)

    As such, the “GG phenomenon” is just that, a phenomenon. Not a new generation of warfare. Not a movement. And, it is this understanding of GG that I most agree is possible or perhaps likely if other things are not also considered.

    One of those things, which Robb considers from time to time but does not quite fold into his primary concept (it seems) is the potential emergence of forces for stability and resilience. He will say that cities or neighborhoods will begin to form secure “enclaves,” he will say that multi-generational households, which are on the increase, are a similar phenomenon, but he will not go so far as to hypothesize a contemporaneous emergence of stability at the local level in reaction to the environment of an emerging GG. To do so would admit the possibility that GG will never even get off the ground, at least not in the way he appears to imagine it will.

    This “emergence” of GG — call it a phenomenon — is more of a description of a developing environment or milieu than any sort of coherent movement. The name “Global Guerrillas” is therefore misleading, because it implies (to me at least) a commonality between all the different groups which emerge: they are “global” in operation–when in fact, they would most likely be local. If they are not local in a confined geographical sense, they would be local in following limited areas of “ungoverned space” or “ungoverned pathways.” As soon as any combination of groups begin to form factions to have a global reach, they would cease having “no common motivation.”

    Now. If we consider the GG as a phenomenon, part of an emerging environment, then we might look at that environment to see how the next generation of warfare might develop. For instance, a 5GW group like those we’ve somewhat imagined would have a much larger pool of potential proxies and pawns. Also, if enough people could be convince that a real “GG” movement exists — or led to fear the possibility of such — a 5GW movement could “hide behind” that false actor. I.e., an OODA-style 5GW could ride the backs of these various independent actors while remaining hidden.

  7. Er…when I said a 5GW movement could “hide behind” that false actor, I should have also added the fact that Robb’s idea of “no common motivation” would result in a kind of chaotic soup — which would make the discovery of 5GW players spanning the different domains (different GG groups, different geographies, different motivations) only so, so, so much harder.

  8. Thank you for the great posts Curtis!

  9. Curtis, I agree with Lind in that it is too early to call 5GW. He also agrees that what I am describing is 4GW.

  10. Ah well, so much for agreement, then.

  11. But I would add, now that I think of it, that some of the disparate, non-global forces might actually operate as 4GW forces, in the GG emerging phenomenon you describe, John.

    But to say that “it is too early to call 5GW” presupposes a type of 5GW already that cannot be called. I.e., merely shutting one’s eyes might easily lead to the impression that nothing can be seen.

  12. John, where? This isn’t a facetious question — I’d be interested to read that Lind piece.

  13. I think we all agree that GG tactics resemble classical Guerrilla tactics and therefore resemble 4GW.

    I think the split in opinions (“GG is 4GW” view, vs. “GG is 3GW that looks a bit like 4GW” view) is along the seems of alternative definitions of 4GW.

    Hammes (The Sling and The Stone) characterizes 4GW as sending messages at all levels (strategic, operational, tactical, and additionally mental, physical an especially moral) to convince your opponents to quit fighting, quit opposing your aims, and to go home and do something else. Every action of the 4GW operator is psychological warfare. This also maps to attacking the observe/orient parts of the OODA (http://www.flickr.com/photos/purpleslog/156106514/). Folks following this view (4GW is sending messages and is against a particular part of the OODA), will have problem characterizing GGs as 4GW. They will see the GG focus on physical infrastructure rear areas as a 3GW viewpoint.

    4GW could also be described more generally as using guerilla techniques against the rear areas (mostly) of ones opponents to confuse, disrupt, and collapse the opponents. Folks having this view (4GW is advanced guerilla warfare) will not have a problem seeing GG as 4GW. I think this would be Lind’s implicit view (but I don’t know for sure and googling didn’t turn up anything).

  14. [...] The Global Guerrillas discussion continues at TDAXP, Purpleslog and John Robb. [...]

  15. I think you are right, PurpleSlog, on the different characterizations of 4GW. My problem with the description of 4GW as being merely “advanced guerrilla warfare” is that there is no real cut-off which would determine the “advanced” in that characterization: no real discernible qualitative shift, actually. For instance, I would easily be able to characterize some fighting tactics of various tribes throughout history — from the South Pacific to South and North America and perhaps even much earlier within Europe — as forms of guerrilla warfare. It came out of the blue, often from the cover of jungle or forest, and did not entail massive formations. This is going back to the common criticism of Lind, that tactics of 4GW have probably always existed. We have communications technology and weapons technology which are quite different than methods used by those earlier warriors; but they also had bird calls and the like for quick communication across a wide area, and it may be our own egotism which views modern technology as superior to theirs. (I.e., within a time-specific context, our technology amid all the technology now being used on every side may not be significantly qualitatively different from theirs when compared to the methods they used amid all the technology they had then.)

    This is also why, when Robb’s whole argument in this thread was “Lind said so!” I reacted more or less with disdain. The argument from someone else’s authority is hardly persuasive when discussing ideas and terminology. The term, “4GW”, must describe the phenomenon or methods rather than a system of understanding entirely enclosed within another’s head: I.e., we must be able to apply it on our own if it actually describes what is happening, but claims of ownership of ideas will invariably reduce those ideas to useless orthodoxy quite removed from actual phenomena.

    Incidentally, I wonder if you’ve come close to proposing something I’ve been pondering, that our ideas of an OODA-driven 5GW may in fact be a kind of mutated 4GW — perhaps not quite a new “generation” although not quite the common understanding of 4GW (of either type of understanding of 4GW.) Even Lind, in “The Changing Face of War: Into the Fourth Generation“, says that,

    “Psychological operations may become the dominant operational and strategic weapon in the form of media/information intervention. Logic bombs and computer viruses, including latent viruses, may be used to disrupt civilian as well as military operations. Fourth generation adversaries will be adept at manipulating the media to alter domestic and world opinion to the point where skillful use of psychological operations will sometimes preclude the commitment of combat forces. A major target will be the enemy population’s support of its government and the war. Television news may become a more powerful operational weapon than armored divisions.”

    But this is related to some things I’ve previously written, when discussing generations of warfare. Not only has Lind said that some tactics carry over to the next generation [which I say may lead to "mutations" in styles of warfare] but in the text cited here, and in that essay in general, he implies that psych-ops will be supplemental, “where skillful use of psychological operations will sometimes preclude the commitment of combat forces. [my emphasis.]” Our working and general concept of 5GW goes a bit beyond that, and it’s quite tempting to say that Lind has anticipated 5GW even if he is not aware that he has. In fact, separating the generations into distinct styles might itself be only an artificial construct we use to understand what occurs — because, it would be just as easy to say that what we think of as 4GW is merely a mutation of 3GW (but not, strictly speaking, 3GW, since it is a mutation; so it is “3GW+”) on the way to what we’ve been calling 5GW.

  16. Lind, Robb, Dan, PurpleSlog, CGW

    PrefaceAs regular readers probably already know, debate over the characterization of John Robb’s “Global Guerrillas” has been spotlighted in various places around this tiny section of the web.PurpleSlog initiated the recent debate in “Am I Understa…

  17. Update: Jeez…I used the correct spelling for Bazaar throughout.
    ,
    Ha! I realized last night that I had been writing “Bizarre of Violence” in my post, and I wondered why. My last comment at PC uses it right, I think, since the very notion of a “Bazaar of Violence” is quite bizarre –

    adj. Strikingly unconventional and far-fetched in style or appearance; [plus it comes ultimately from Basque for "beard"...]

    It wasn’t intentional, but subliminal use. Now I see that Dan had used that word in the comments here, and I wonder if that’s how that meme transferred to me…

  18. [...] (On a similar note: This is why the idea of classifying GGs as 3GW is misguided. New generations internalize the previous ones, but leverage old methods to new ends enabled by a new societal context.) [...]

  19. [...] Global Guerrillas testing out techniques, or slowly ramping up? [...]

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