Recent Fifth Generation Warfare (5GW) Stuff on the Internet

TDAXP is taking the lead with a souvenir edition of the Dreaming 5GW PoV on 5GW theory by calling for chapter ideas and submissions for a 5GW Book. This is a great idea (and overdue). I hope CGW can be coaxed into participating. MY suggestions are here.

Glenn Anderson has a posting on Making Meme Stick which is apropos to Memetic Engineering. He lays out a simple framework to follow. has a posting “Building Snowmobiles: Fifth Generation Warfare Blogs“. Welcome to the fun house FJ.

The Committee of Public Safety had a post entitled “The Tactical Loop“, which while not about 5GW directly, may be of interest those people looking into 5GW.

Zen was the first place I saw it (and it has a good discussion) –  LTC Coer has a 5GW article. Ubiware posts related to the Quantum Theory of War. Blosint comments on it here. TDAXP has also commented with “Redefining 5GW, again” in response to that Marine Corp Gazette article and Danger Room which has a good discussion. Especially noteworthy is Greg McDowall bringing up “fractal war” with “possibility of using elements of each generation, sort of like a grand strategic version of combined arms” which has me thinking, and Seerov (who should consider getting his own blog) with this great comment on why XGW and not Lind’s GMW:

Perhaps the political goals shouldn’t matter in the classification? The tactics and strategy will determine what generation/gradient it is, regardless of political goals. I see no reason why a group can’t use 4GW and try to seize a State?

At the same time, its very unlikely that a non-State actor would use 1,2,or 3 GW, as most non-state actors don’t have the resources for this kind of war. So in determining whether a force is conducting 4GW or not, we should NOT focus on the end state, only on the methods.

Some of you may have read “Unrestricted Warfare.” Its a book dealing with China’s plan to use 4GW/5GW to “destroy the US.” The book lays out how a State can use 4GW/5GW (although they don’t call it 5WG, in fact I think this was before anyone coined the term GW?) to to win wars for the State.

So bottom line: Anyone can use any form/generation/gradient of war they believe will achieve them their goals. It doesn’t matter if they’re a State, or non-State. It doesn’t matter what their goals are. It only matters how they fight. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t care what their gaols are, only that it doesn’t matter in determining what “generation/gradient their using.

So this is how we should think about a war:

1) Realize you’re in war (this is most difficult in 5GW). This may happen after an attack?

2) After determining that you’re in a war, take security measures so as to not take anymore damage.

3) Determine who and what your enemy is trying to accomplish.

4) Determine how they’re trying to accomplish their objectives. It is at this point when you determine what GW they’re using on you. They may be using a combination.

The US is good at beating actors who use 1,2,3 GW. We’re learning how to beat 4GW in Iraq and Afghanistan. Its important that we think about what people are calling “5GW” so that we recognize it, and understand how to beat it/defend against it.

And that’s where we’re at now.

Adam Elkus at Rethinking Security has two post of interest on 4GW/GMW and a little 5GW. In first The Crisis of 4GW he writes that future success 4GW and 5GW may be overstated:

A common definition of 5GW–as well as real world case studies–remains out of reach. And the price for moving towards a non-state paradigm of war has been the overestimation of the insurgent’s power and an automatic assumption of the network’s vitality against the hierarchy.
5GW is so vague that it may be impossible to salvage. That being said, there are elements from it that were certainly of theoretical value to conceptions of propaganda, politics, and future conflict that should not be thrown out with the bathwater.

Though Adam seems to have come out against 5GW Theory in the comments:

SE, this isn’t a postmortem, just a recognition of a problem. It is, however, a postmortem of 5GW


His second post is More thoughts on 4GW.

Phil at Amicable Collisions has a rich roundup called “A Generational Warfare Miscellany“.

Sam at Seli briefly discusses 5GW as port of his post “Generation warfare a cohesive explanatory model“:

Fifth generation warfare is about the melding of different aspects of DIME (within this discussion) within the society. When an adversary engages from fifth generation the military through civilian population can be very much the same. The DIME model overlaps more and more until it is nearly one overlapping set. That is an oversimplified explanation but is also why I chose to narrow the aspect of the differing generations. It depicts how that fifth generation of warfare begins to emerge into the spectrum regardless of whether it is high intensity conflict or low intensity conflict. That increasing overlap also means, if we accept the earlier point, information operations takes on enhanced roles within conflict fifth generation warfare. I am sure there are aspects that I am missing.

Arherring’s comment on the Seli Post is noted as:

There are a few basic premises that I think have to be included in any framework that attempts to differentiate between methods/doctrines/types/generations/gradients of warfare.

1) There must be an internally consistent progression of effectiveness displayed in the framework. For every type of warfare there is at least one corresponding type of warfare that exists to offset it. It may not yet exist or yet have a theoretical definition, but it must be able to exist and be able to be expressed as a continuum in the framework.

2) The types of warfare must be able to be expressed on any type of battlefield.

(This is where I think your cyberwarfare should fit. Be it manuever or attrition of information the doctrines should apply even to electronic battlefields)

3) The framework must express an ability to both categorize types of warfare in order to determine the position of a type of warfare on a continuum, and suggest the appropriate response to a type of warfare by showing the counter to the type of warfare an opponent is employing.

4) Each type of warfare in the framework must be able to be clearly defined at each level of employment be it tactical, operational, strategic or grand strategic yet be consistent in the method in which it is employed. Also, different types of warfare must be able to co-exist at each of these levels.

The Generations of Modern Warfare (GMW) developed by Bill Lind does not meet any of these criteria. However, X Gradient Warfare (XGW) does and your excellent diagram could be a very convincing way of displaying an XGW-like framework.

I like your definition of Fifth Generation warfare and I agree that information operations will have a prominent role, indeed the key role in its application. It is the ability to present ideas in context to that is the heart of 5GW as I imagine it.

David Axe has an article on 5GW that is covered at Soob. I think this is the David Axe article. He seems to be implicitly defining 5GW as sort of Robb’s Global Guerrillas concept. A good discussion follows at ZenPundit on why this isn’t 5GW and on the whole meta-debate in general.

Coming Anarchy’s Younghusband has a post on visualization of XGW as a step to eventually improve XGW. I like his idea of going back to Boyd’s trio of Attrition Warfare, Maneuver Conflict, and Moral Conflict. The question is, can a visualization that includes room for 0GW and and 5GW (and perhaps other things not thought of yet) in that type of visualization?

The Committee of Public Safety also has some neat visualizations going.I really like the axis the information power vs Kinetic power axis as opposed to a  Kinetics vs non-kinetic or kinetic vs. dispersed kinetics idea.

Crossed Crocodiles uses the term 5GW in the context of Somalia and the “vortex of violence”. He seems to be equating 5GW with Nation-building or perhaps just as non-kinetic war.

I briefly blogged on Sharia Finance as a 5GW tactic. There have been a lot of posting on this.

In this draft post I try to re-tell post-cold war history as the history of three overlapping 5GW efforts and is partially responsible for how I consider the that the default American PoV has become a leftists PoV. I am still working on (I misplaced my handwritten notes).

Bob Morris of blog “Politics in the Zeroes” sticks his  toe into the 5GW water with two posts.

Cross-posted to Dreaming 5GW.

4 Responses

  1. A fantastic piece!

    An excellent work on the happening-now work on 5GW!

  2. Some of this I was going to make separate posts on, but I just don’t have the time. It is quite a burst of 5GW stuff going on right now.

  3. Dang…I just noticed that CGW’s blog is gone. The web page says: “WEB SITE SUSPENDED”.

  4. “and Seerov (who should consider getting his own blog) with this great comment on why XGW and not Lind’s GMW:”

    You’re too kind sir. I’m thinking about it.

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