Fifth Generaton Warfare (5GW) Fiction Example: Two Short Stories in the Collection “Study War No More” [Updated]

I have been looking for Fifth Generation Warfare (5GW) fiction examples (and I have several queued up on my bookshelf now).

The short story collection “Sudy War No More” edited by Joe Haldeman (1977) has two examples.

Of course, the authors don’t talk about 4GW or 5GW directly. I am just looking to flesh-out the 5GW concept by finding fictional examples or proto-examples.

The first story is “A Man To My Wounding” by Poul Anderson. In this world, 1GW/2GW/3GW had been replaced by a sort of state vs. state 4GW that was purposeful assignation of State leaders at al levels on the other side. The US and China were is sort of a state of war and assassinations were feared. In the end, it was discovered that China had switched to using secret assassinations of future leaders (hey -> to reduce the next generation resiliency of the state) and the 4GW was being used as cover.

The second story is “To Howard Hughes: A Modest Proposal” by Joe Haldeman. The 5GW aspects are that in this story a super empowered rich dude finances and brings together a small group of people with disparate and special skills that hatch a plot that operates in secrecy that takes many years to come to fruition. The plot is a way to get rid of the Nuclear Weapons Threat over the World (and is not very 5GW-ish). When the plot is exposed (after the Rubicon is crossed) it is too late to stop it, even though there isn’t any more secrecy.

Update: In case you are wondering, here is how I define 5GW. Also, I blog at Dreaming 5GW which is a group blog devoted to the subject.

5 Responses

  1. Random Links

    Today I wiped out on my bike, spent seven hours in class (split between TA and student roles), and began grading 100 exams. So, somewhat eventful. No real blog post today, but some interesting linklets

    John Robb calls me (and Tom, and Mark) “smar…

  2. Well, they all sound like interesting stories–gotta check them out sometime.

    IMHO, the Anderson story does remind me (albeit obliquely) of the premise behind the Millenium episode “Skull & Bones”–see again:

    Since you have a thing for ATLs, here’s a story idea to ponder; I’ve actually tried to imagine an alternate reality where the Soviet intelligence community,just as the USSR was finally collapsing, manages to set up an Anti-American secret society dedicated to carrying out something akin to the 5GW example you found in the Anderson story, i.e. secret assassinations of future leaders.

    If such a thing was done, I wonder how long would such a conspiracy be able to get away with it?
    For how long would they be successfully concealed?
    And how “successful” would they be?
    And what would/should the alternat Post-Cold War timeline look like?

    Since I haven’t read the Anderson story, perhaps you could fill me in–what sort of “leaders” was it talking about? Political leaders? Business leaders? Cultural leadders?

  3. Overall, the collection is not top-notch. I was reading a bunch of Hadleman in my youth and I bought that when it came out.

    The leaders were political leaders. The implication at the end was the future political leaders would start to be targeted…and that could low-level or mid-level political, cultural, business people – folks with a bright future. It was the only story that I recalled. When I first came across the 5GW concept at a ZenPundit post, the story flashed back into my mind.

    As far as a post-Soviet Communist 5GW…The Gates of Vienna had a post that made me think of that:

    I think several things would be needed for a successful 5GW (Secret War). First you have to be or appear to be part of the target society. The 5GW must completely blend. The 5GW must have resources/money to live off the land (the society).

    Secrecy must be maintained, so you much move slowly and tentatively and keep the number of people in the know small…really small. In this case, if the 5GW org decided to reduce the resilience of the US to a future Marxist movement, you must consider what type of people/leaders in the future would oppose this or make it less likely for such a thing to occur.

    I don’t think a campaign of assassination would work by itself. First, the assignations have to not arouse suspicion. That implies some combination of the following: 1) There are not to many of them 2) the 5GW has a means of killing but having it look like natural causes ( ) or as accident or as innocent bystanders in criminal violence 3) The 5GW is manipulating a 4GW org from behind the scenes to do the killing. The 4GW takes the blame and fall. The 5GW doesn’t care about the 4GW and walks away from it as/when needed with the 5GW and its goals still concealed.

    The best actions of the 5GW would be to become or set the stage so that the next generations of teachers and cultural leaders are Marxists friendly (even if they don’t call it that), and to promote theories and values that undermine the cohesion of the USA and the like. It would take along time. Security/Secrecy would be paramount. Opponents would need to be ridiculed or silenced or be accused of being crazy conspiracy nutcases. Assassination would be risky and need only occur say if a few dynamic younger folks emerge that could derail it.

    In the end, the problem with assassination is that if the target is a future leader of the USA, well we are a populous country. You kill a few feature leaders but there are plenty of others with the same views who could step up. It would be better to for the 5GW to change the thinking and memes at the forefront of a society, and only use assassination as a last resort if the effort is going to be derailed and the more subtle ways to marginalize the derailer are not working.

    As to you original question, it would take a good 10 years for the 5GW set up (blend, provide security and concealment mechanisms), plan (what type of targets to hit, methods). They would moist likely practice the techniques on others (not related to the 5GW goals) just to see if it works. Then in earnest they could try to identify and carry out the actions. They would have to be careful to mix up the techniques/locations so that data mining of databases would not expose the group.

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