On “Unrestricted Warfare” and the Generations of War Framework

The book Unrestricted Warfare (or Total Warfare in some translations) written by PLA Colonles Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui covers a wide range of possible conflict methods. It is available at Amazon.com or free on the internet via as a PDF. I read the book in early 2004.

I started writing about this earlier in the day in this post, but I realized I was going off on a tangent. The Hacker/Botnet post got me thinking about the book some more.

What I got from the book was a broader thinking on the range of methods of conflict, and in the interesting ways that different methods can be combined.

The following methods are listed:

  • Atomic warfare
  • Diplomatic warfare
  • Financial warfare
  • Conventional warfare
  • Network warfare aka Information Technology Infrastructure warfare (not to be confused with Netwar or Network-Centric warfare)
  • Trade warfare
  • Bio-chemical warfare
  • Intelligence warfare
  • Resources warfare aka Natural Resources warfare
  • Ecological warfare
  • Psychological warfare
  • Economic aid warfare
  • Space warfare
  • Tactical warfare
  • Regulatory warfare
  • Electronic warfare
  • Smuggling warfare
  • Sanction warfare
  • Guerrilla warfare
  • Drug warfare
  • Media warfare
  • Terrorist warfare
  • Virtual warfare (deterrence)
  • Ideological warfare

This list should not be thought as of definitive and final.

Offhand it might be useful to add the following to the list:

  • Culture warfare
  • High Energy warfare
  • Infrastructure Systems warfare (e.g. roads , power – think Russia turning off gas pipelines)
  • Lawfare aka Legal Systems warfare (was implicitly stated)
  • Meme warfare (kind of covered in Ideological warfare)
  • Meteorological/Geophysics warfare
  • Nanotech warfare (future)
  • Netwar
  • Network-Centric warfare
  • Open Source warfare
  • Population / Immigration Warfare
  • Reputation warfare
  • Robotic warfare

The authors suggest that different methods can be combined in interesting ways.

For instance, the John Robb's Global Guerrillas idea could be constructed as guerrilla warfare + infrastructure systems warfare + financial warfare + open source warfare.

Many of these conflict types resemble Nye's Soft Power ideas in that they are non-kinetic and indirect.

The conflict methods cut across the Generations of War categories.

For instance Atomic Warfare:

  • 2GW: Strategic Nuclear Weapons
  • 3GW: Tactical Nuclear weapons to take out, redirect, and neutralize large Soviet armored formations
  • 4GW: The threat of nuclear terrorism and blackmail
  • 5GW: Actor A convinces actor B that actor C is planning nuclear terrorist activity against actor B, so actor B needs to take out actor C before actor C has the capability ready; Or actor A does the nuclear terrorist attack but frames actor C for it (same result in both cases)

So I am picturing a conflict matrix:

Left to Right: Hard Power methods / Soft Power methods.

Top to Bottom: 0GW, 1GW, 2GW, 3GW, 4GW, 5GW

One thing that is very noticeable, most of these methods are outside that of what is normally though of as the national security establishment. Also, the time-frames often are longer then that of a two-term president.

Ok, I should write more now, but I have to pack for a trip. Future Purpleslog will followup sometime later.

5 Responses

  1. Classic tdaxp

    tdaxp posts from 2005 are popping up all over the web today. Maybe it’s time for a retro blog?

    Over at myspace, Briana likes the mahna mahna song.

    Curtis Gale Weeks at Phatic Communion links to my series on Jesusism-Paulism.

    The epinomou…

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