Distractions, Diversions, Books, Wines, Whiskeys and Other Stuff To Think About When You Should Be Doing Something Else.

Posts tagged “5GW

Diversion and Distraction of the PR kind: Facebook vs. Google

To summarize:

From The Daily Beast:

“For the past few days, a mystery has been unfolding in Silicon Valley. Somebody, it seems, hired Burson-Marsteller, a top public-relations firm, to pitch anti-Google stories to newspapers, urging them to investigate claims that Google was invading people’s privacy. Burson even offered to help an influential blogger write a Google-bashing op-ed, which it promised it could place in outlets like The Washington Post, Politico, and The Huffington Post.

The plot backfired when the blogger turned down Burson’s offer and posted the emails that Burson had sent him. It got worse when USA Today broke a story accusing Burson of spreading a “whisper campaign” about Google “on behalf of an unnamed client.””

From Mashable:

“The PR firm is Burson-Marsteller. The blogger is Chris Soghoian. A Burson agent approached him to write a piece on Google’s Social Circle, a network of social connections that Google uses to deliver relevant search results. The Burson rep even offered to help write the piece and approached other news organizations, including USA Today, with similar offers.

Soghoian declined and instead decided to publish some of the emails from Burson. (They’re available here.) In one email, the Burson rep directly attacks Google, saying, “Google, as you know, has a well-known history of infringing on the privacy rights of America’s Internet users. Not a year has gone by since the founding of the company where it has not been the focus of front-page news detailing its zealous approach to gathering information -– in many cases private and identifiable information — about online users.”

The email goes on to describe Google’s service as the “latest tool designed to scrape private data and build deeply personal dossiers on millions of users –- in a direct and flagrant violation of its agreement with the FTC.”

When Soghoian asked who was paying for this campaign, the Burson representative refused to name the firm’s client. A Facebook representative confirmed to The Daily Beast‘s Dan Lyons that the company hired Burson for two reasons: “First, because it believes Google is doing some things in social networking that raise privacy concerns; second, and perhaps more important, because Facebook resents Google’s attempts to use Facebook data in its own social-networking service.””

This is what I thought about the whole situation:

Maybe if there was a 5GW fan page on Facebook they might have done a better job.


On the 5GW Bookshelf: Sleights of Mind by Macknik and Martinez-Conde with Blakeslee

Sleights of Mind

What the Neuroscience of Magic

Reveals About Our Everyday Deceptions.

by Stephen L Macknik and Susana Martinez-Conde

with Sandra Blakeslee

For a very long time I have had an intuition closely linking the principles of Fifth Gradient Warfare with the principles of magic. I have been intrigued by the World War Two exploits of magician Jasper Maskelyne and his Magic Gang. I have explored the fascinating 5GW aspects of Derren Brown’s chessboard mentalism (to this day I feel this is one of my best 5GW posts and possibly the finest example of 5GW on the tactical, operational and strategic levels). I have studied books that teach illusion techniques. All of these focus on how the magic is performed. None of them explores why magic and illusion fool us.

Sleights of Mind explores the why.

The authors of the book are Dr. Stephen L. Macknik; Director of the Laboratory of Behavioral Neurophysiology at the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, Arizona. Dr. Susana Martinez-Conde; Director of the Laboratory of Visual Neuroscience at BNI (and, incidentally, married to Dr. Macknik), and Sandra Blakeslee who is a regular contributor to the “Science Times” at The New York Times and author of The Body has a Mind of Its Own.

At the outset the authors invoke Clarke’s Third Law: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”; Niven’s converse of Clarke’s Third Law: “Any sufficiently advanced magic is indistinguishable from technology.”; and a paraphrase of Niven’s Law by Agatha Heterodyne (“Girl Genius”): “Any sufficiently analyzed magic is indistinguishable from science!” From there they go on to explain, through neuroscience, how magicians manipulate attention and assumption in order to manipulate us, to make us perceive the impossible. Sleights of Mind contains dozens of examples of magic tricks, the technical secrets behind their performance, and the neuroscientific basis that explains why it is that we can’t help but to be fooled. Included are in-depth conversations with dozens of master magicians (including my personal favorites Penn and Teller). It is especially interesting to see the back-and-forth between the magicians and the scientists, the former revealing the ways and traditions of illusionists that have been learned through trial and error, the latter explaining the unconscious mechanisms of the mind that make illusions possible.

“Magic tricks work because humans have a hardwired process of attention and awareness that is hackable. By understanding how magicians hack our brains, we can better understand how the same cognitive tricks are at work in advertising strategy, business negotiations, and all varieties of interpersonal relations. When we understand how magic works in the mind of the spectator, we will have unveiled the neural bases of consciousness itself.”

Sleights of Mind is as fascinating as it is informative, easily extending onto cognition, economics, memory, art and the things in our head that make us think we have conscious control of many of our choices. Anyone who has an interest in 5GW, and / or John Boyd and his Observe, Orient, Decide, Act (OODA) Loop should immediately add Sleights of Mind to their must-read list.

More information about the book and the authors, including some very interesting videos of neuroscience and magic in action, can be found at the Sleights of Mind website.

The Catch: Runaway Generals, Psy-ops, Zombies and Prions!

There are either two very different articles in the Catch, or this is the most epic wargame of all time, ever!

From Rolling Stone:

Another Runaway General: Army Deploys Psy-Ops on U.S. Senators

In short, the story is about how Lt. Gen. William Caldwell tasked his Information Operations (IO) team with targeting visiting U.S. Representatives and Senators in order to provide more personnel and funding to support his efforts to train the Afghan security forces. The team, trained in psychological operations, apparently resisted the plan as unethical.

 “My job in psy-ops is to play with people’s heads, to get the enemy to behave the way we want them to behave,” says Lt. Colonel Michael Holmes, the leader of the IO unit, who received an official reprimand after bucking orders. “I’m prohibited from doing that to our own people. When you ask me to try to use these skills on senators and congressman, you’re crossing a line.”

(emphasis mine)

The rub here is apparently about the difference between Information Operations and Public Relations which seems to entirely depend on who is considered an enemy, who get the Psy-ops and propaganda; or an ally, who get  the orchestrated briefings, staged demonstrations and photo-ops.

“In March 2010, Breazile issued a written order that “directly tasked” Holmes to conduct an IO campaign against “all DV visits” – short for “distinguished visitor.” The team was also instructed to “prepare the context and develop the prep package for each visit.” In case the order wasn’t clear enough, Breazile added that the new instructions were to “take priority over all other duties.” Instead of fighting the Taliban, Holmes and his team were now responsible for using their training to win the hearts and minds of John McCain and Al Franken.”

(emphasis mine)

From a Fifth Gradient Warfare point of view there really isn’t a difference between IO and PR. Preparation of context is the heart of either of these kinds of efforts. To my thinking General Caldwell gets that. He is trained (I hope) to seek advantage wherever he can find it and he saw an opportunity to use the resources at his disposal to improve his position in order to better accomplish his mission. According to the article he was even considering using his IO operation to create support among U.S. and NATO populations. That’s pretty bold but it certainly isn’t stupid. If politicians or anybody else is upset because they were the “targets” of this operation they need to grow up. The world is full of conflict and you are always somebody’s target. Any perceived difference between IO and PR is a polite fiction we use to convince ourselves that we are the good guys and they are the enemy.


Further Recommended Reading on the article at the always interesting Small Wars Journal:

Another Runaway General? Hardly…

On a lighter note,

Via Popular Science:

 FYI: Could Scientists Really Create a Zombie Apocalypse Virus?

I’m not afraid that the Zombie Apocalypse is actually coming, but I do love the “what-if” scenarios that make it so interesting to think about. This article asks scientists if it would even be possible to manufacture a virus that would turn the population into brains-seeking, shambling, undead monsters.

One possible answer has cows going mad, or rather causes cows to go mad:

The most likely culprit for this partially deteriorated brain situation, according to Schlozman, is as simple as a protein. Specifically, a proteinaceous infectious particle, a prion. Not quite a virus, and not even a living thing, prions are nearly impossible to destroy, and there’s no known cure for the diseases they cause.

The first famous prion epidemic was discovered in the early 1950s in Papua New Guinea, when members of the Fore tribe were found to be afflicted with a strange tremble. Occasionally a diseased Fore would burst into uncontrollable laughter. The tribe called the sickness “kuru,” and by the early ’60s doctors had traced its source back to the tribe’s cannibalistic funeral practices, including brain-eating.

Prions gained notoriety in the 1990s as the infectious agents that brought us bovine spongiform encephalopathy, also known as mad cow disease. When a misshapen prion enters our system, as in mad cow, our mind develops holes like a sponge. Brain scans from those infected by prion-based diseases have been compared in appearance to a shotgun blast to the head.

Now, if we’re thinking like evil geniuses set on global destruction, the trick is going to be attaching a prion to a virus, because prion diseases are fairly easy to contain within a population. To make things truly apocalyptic, we need a virus that spreads quickly and will carry the prions to the frontal lobe and cerebellum. Targeting the infection to these areas is going to be difficult, but it’s essential for creating the shambling, dim-witted creature we expect.

Fun stuff!

The Catch: Defense Dept. Research Arm DARPA Tackles Storytime

Defense Dept. Research Arm DARPA Tackles Storytime.

via Fast Company.

“Hence the workshop to try to learn how stories connect to people’s minds, how they influence or prejudice individual thinking, and whether the flow of narrative information sharing in a group can be influenced by an outside agent–all in a “scientifically respectable manner.”

Yes, that does sound creepy.

The workshop has three goals. It will survey theories about narrative data flow to work out “what is a story? What are its moving parts?” and more. It will try to understand how narratives influence security situations, asking “how do stories influence bystanders’ response to conflict” and other questions. And it will survey the state of the art in story analysis and decomposition, with a goal of building a better toolset for quickly understanding the nature of a story, and “how stories propagate in a system to influence behavior.” “

Fast Company’s article approaches the idea with a tongue-in-cheek “Oh no,  its 1984! / Mind control!” mentality but kidding aside, DARPA is in essence exploring a very central aspect of Fifth Gradient Warfare (5GW) thinking. These stories, these narratives, are consumed by Observation that interact with and trigger particular aspects and identities of Orientation. Call it psy-ops, call it memetics, call it spin, call it propaganda, whatever you call it these are all processes that seek to control the narrative in order to exert some sort of control over a targeted audience in order to create an outcome, and that is 5GW.

DARPA press release (.pdf) for Stories, Neuroscience and Experimental Technologies (STORyNET): Analysis and Decomposition of Narratives in Security Contexts workshop,  is here. It would be really interesting to have a 5GW-ist voice in the room.

Super-Empowered Hopeful Individuals

Can gaming change the world?

I personally see no reason why it can’t. This TED talk by Jane McGonigal is a vision of using the principles of gaming, specifically online gaming, to harness the abilities and efforts of large numbers of people to solve real-world problems. Essentially, it is crowd-sourcing using the systems designed for online gaming to provide the risk / reward payoff for participants.

I love the reference to Super-Empowered Hopeful Individuals that occurs around the 11:00 mark. Many theorists have attributed the essence of 5GW to actions by Super-Empowered Angry Men (though I would find it much more likely they would be the puppet instead of the puppet-master), but it intrigues me to consider that the creation of Super-Empowered Hopeful Individuals to achieve the goals of a 5GW campaign as proxies attempting to build rather than destroy.

To me, that would be an epic win.

I am interested to see how the Evoke project turns out.

The Catch: BJ Fogg and the Fogg Behavioral Model

The Underwire blog at Wired.com recently posted an article (pretty funny) that tripped my 5GW radar. The article involved the NetLife Research Bad Useability Calendar and June’s entry (seen to the right) referenced somebody I had, admitted, not heard of; BJ Fogg. I don’t know what persuasive design is but it sounds kinda 5GWish to me.

Research ensued!

(Heavy linking to follow. All links expand greatly on the topic)

Dr. BJ Fogg founded the Persuasive Technology Lab at Stanford University and is the creator of the Fogg Behavioral Model (FBM). He also has published two books about the intersection of persuasion and computer technology:

Persuasive Technology: Using Computers to Change What We Think and Do. and,

Mobile Persuasion: 20 Perspectives of the Future of Behavior Change.

convergenceDr. Fogg calls this intersection “Captology” and it is the centerpiece of his research and primary application of his model.

Captology and the Fogg Behavioral Model seem to have a strong resonance with the nuts-and-bolts and the hows-and-whys of Fifth Gradient Warfare Theory in particular and XGW in general. It seems mainly to be applied to social media at this point but for a 5GWist that is a very attractive form of leverage for the manipulation of a target actor. I am going to have to make it a point to track down at least one of his books. Until then I will have to settle for reading his 2009 paper about the Fogg Behavioral Model. Further study will have to determine how closely 5GW and Captology/FBM really intersect.

A bit of Recommended Viewing as well that touches on social media:

Wikileaks: The Uncertainty of Transparency in a 5GW World

By now everybody knows about Wikileaks. If you don’t you have obviously been living in a state of ignorant bliss and you probably stumbled upon this site looking for a funny de-motivational poster about a Llama (Go ahead and follow this link if this is the case. Trust me, if you have managed to avoid the Wrath of Assange, then good for you. We should all be so lucky).

Anyway, without discussing the individual “leaks” I was thinking the other day about their validity. We are talking about thousands and thousands of electronically stored documents that were supposedly stolen and then given to Wikileaks in order to create some sort of radical transparency that revealed what the Army was shooting at, what State Department officials thought about foreign leaders and what places might be really good targets for terrorists. Those that I have seen seem to be plausible in that they pass the smell test. They seem like they contain information and opinions that might come up at a State Department water cooler, or planning session. But are they real? What makes us think that any of this legitimate? Is it the sheer volume that lends weight to their truth? Is it that the slightly scandalous remarks (that are only scandalous if they appear in public, but are gossip-as-usual in an internal e-mail discussion) would never have been allowed into the public eye by government media massagers? Why should you trust Wikileaks as a truth broker?

These are electronic documents that have been, for the most part, removed from their original context. They are a collection of endlessly alterable electronic bits that somebody committed a crime to put into the hands of an organization that may or may not have an agenda. What if only one of the thousands of leaked documents is demonstrably, court of law, defying the laws of the universe, provably fake? What does that do to your trust level for the rest of the documents if any of them could be subtly, or not-so-subtly altered? What if half of them are verifiable, but the other half are ambiguous in their provenance? If none of them can be truly verified as genuine what if ten percent of them are altered or outright manufactured? What if all of them are pure, unadulterated, fiction? So what that the government hasn’t denied that any of these documents are fake. Would you really believe them if they did?

The bottom line is that information, raw information, is endlessly mutable. Everything you believe about what you observe depends upon all of the preconceptions you carry in your personal orientative baggage. If you want to believe something, even in the face of evidence against its truth, you will find a justification to go on believing it. That mechanism is hard-wired into our brains. Without a context (and sometimes even with context), you will create a context for what you observe.

Fifth Gradient Warfare (5GW) doctrines are premised upon the manipulation of Observation in order to create specific effect on a target’s actions. 5GW actors spoon feed information to a target that is intended, by design, to trigger a specific context for that information in the mind of a target in order to cause that target to act (or not act) in a particular manner. To my thinking, the idea of transparency is a mechanism to promote trust in the validity of information (or lack thereof) that is fed into Observation. It is fundamental in a 5GW world to realize that nothing is inherently neutral. All actors have agendas, bias, preconceptions and will strive to promote their point-of-view over all others.


Pakistani Media Publishes Fake Wikileaks Scoops by Joshua Keating

The only problem is that none of these cables appear to be real. The Guardian, which has full access to the unreleased WikiLeaks cables, can’t find any of them. The story, which ran in four Pakistani newspapers, isn’t bylined and was credited only to Online Agency, an Islamabad-based pro-army news service.

It’s actually surprising this hasn’t happened yet. The vast majority of the cables are still unreleased, but the newspapers which have access to them have often reported on some of the more salacious details before the original cables are actually available. (Take for instance, the famous “Batman and Robin” description of Putin and Medvedev, which appeared in newspapers days before the actual cable was available). 

So, it’s pretty easy to just make up cables to serve your political agenda. If the Pakistani forgers had been more sophisticated they would have invented quotes or even mocked up fake cables rather than just paraphrasing. This, in my opinion, is an argument for just releasing the full archive now rather than trickling them out at the newspapers’ pace. It will be a lot easier to fact check false claims if we no longer have to rely on the Guardian as WikiLeaks’ gatekeeper. 


The Catch: When Campaigns Manipulate Social Media by Jared Keller at The Atlantic

The Atlantic

When Campaigns Manipulate Social Media

by Jared Keller

“If you think about how much putting an ad on TV costs, you could pay an army of people to post fake information and promote it through social networks,” says Menczer, who, based on his research, anticipates future manipulation of the Twittersphere for political gains. “It’s a form of information pollution. Spamming on social networks has very low cost and has the potential to influence a  large amount of people. From the point of view of someone running for office, it would be crazy NOT to use this system.”

Accountability is a huge problem in the social media sphere, where anonymity is still easy to maintain. “If anything, this is in violation of Twitter terms of service…. but so what? You can just make another account. There’s no accountability,” says Menczer. “I think it’s scary. It’s extremely easy to fabricate news use these methods to manipulate the Web because people want to believe what they want to believe.”

I’ve written before about the possibilities for using 5GW principles specifically for elections. The proliferation and rising prominence of social media even in the short time from when I wrote that post make it even more natural that social media becomes the preferred platform for observational manipulation if only from a cost / benefit standpoint.

By the numbers of that post, from a social media standpoint:

1)  Defined timeframe allows for 5GW organizations to plan to specific points in time and the election cycle allows for a truly strategic planning horizon.

Most of the examples cited in the article are fairly blatant in nature and yet still seem to have a measurable effect. Considering a strategic planning horizon, a 5GW effector can afford the time and effort to create a much more subtle and subversive network of influencers to fly under the radar of projects like Mr. Menczer’s Truthy. Twitter spam accounts, spam blog comments and Facebook Feed spam may still have an important place in the plan, but even more valuable is the opportunity to create or co-opt opinion leaders that will be persistent in the network.

2)  Defined geographic areas involved allow for a 5GW organization to precisely define the scale of their operations.

This is somewhat harder to do with social media, mostly because, by nature, the networks aren’t restricted to geographical boundaries. However, the ability to target specific nodes in a network that may have specific geographic impacts is becoming easier and more effective. It may actually be easiest to do this on the smallest and largest scales of geographic areas like cities and countries, and most difficult at intermediate scales like states or regions of states that are less well represented as network subsets.

3)   5GW organizational goals may be precisely and measurably defined due to the existing systems in place to progressively measure results in detail.

When I wrote this the systems that I had in mind were opinion polls and, of course, the voting itself that can be broken down into individual precincts and viewed over time. Now it brings to mind systems and tools such as Momentum. Momentum bills itself as “a real-time index rating for all content in the global social network.”

“Momentum provides social intelligence. We first retrieve all conversations in regards to the topic, event, brand, or person you entered. Then Momentum extracts all linked content, indexes it, ranks it and displays it so you can use it…”

John Robb has more thoughts on Momentum, its purpose and its potential here. If 5GW is about creating or co-opting a narrative to lead to a specific goal or result, then Momentum and other tools and systems like it, or related to it, are invaluable to identify and get ahead of those narratives.

4)  The campaign and election process is already optimized for rapid information dissemination providing ample vectors for meme transference.

The concern of the day may be changeable and fickle as defined by the pattern of the 24 hours news cycle, but the “message” of the political campaign seems to be endlessly applicable to any given situation. The dedication to spin, especially in more important elections, means multiple mouthpieces for the “message.” To co-opt the “message” is to co-opt all of the mouthpieces. As social media increasingly becomes a mouthpiece of the campaign the opportunity for a 5GW effector to subtly and seamlessly co-opt the “message” becomes more possible because of its ubiquity.

5)  Well connected political parties and multitude of long-standing issues offer powerful memplexes for a 5GW organization to piggyback or hijack.

This is very much related to the previous consideration. Social media in this regard offers influence for the receiving end of the “message” as it has the potential to organize the audience based upon specific interest and provide a direct input into their observation.

6)  Previous election cycles have created a vast amount of pre-existing expertise in political manipulation for 5GW organizations to recruit as 5GW effectors or 5GW proxies.

When I wrote this I was thinking about the existing talent pool of political operatives that seem to drift from campaign to campaign and / or issue group to issue group. It is all about organization. Those skills are easily applied to social media venues with the bonus that proxy organizations may be much more easily constructed or co-opted because of the amorphous anonymity inherent in social media networks and the low costs associated with the creation and distribution of the content.

7)  Discovery of 5GW manipulations may be conceivably and believably be attributed to the campaign process as ‘business-as-usual’.

On social media too. Perhaps even more so, even after things go viral.

From the article:

A few days before the special election in Massachusetts to fill Senate seat formerly held by the late Edward Kennedy, the conservative American Future Fund (AFF) conducted a “Twitter-bomb” campaign against Attorney General Martha Coakley, the Democratic candidate. The AFF set up nine anonymous Twitter accounts in early morning hours prior to the election that sent hundred of tweets accusing Martha Coakley of taking money from health insurance lobbyists to other influential Twitter accounts around the state, linking back to anonymous websites containing further details. Twitter realized the messages were spam and shut down the accounts two hours later, but by that point the messages had reached nearly 60,000 people. The sudden spike caused the attacks on Coakley to turn up in Google searches for her name, effectively gaming Google’s real-time search functions.

8)  There is already ‘competition’ built into the campaign and election  system that may be able to simulate 4GW vs. 5GW or 5GW vs. 5GW opposition.

I intended this in the context of being a test bed for the effectiveness of a 5GW but being applied to social media makes essentially no difference. If the co-opted / manipulated “message” goes viral, the 5GW operation has to have worked in some way.

9)  Election and campaign system is designed to support and protect false-front and proxy organizations.

Social media is even more friendly to anonymity by its very nature and even harder to track down the actors behind the manipulations even if they don’t use proxies or false-fronts. It is the nature of the beast.

10)  Voters expect to be manipulated by political campaigns and will either allow themselves to be manipulated or resist overt manipulations.

As Mr. Menczer said at the end of  the article section cited at the beginning of this post; “It’s extremely easy to fabricate news use these methods to manipulate the Web because people want to believe what they want to believe.”

That is the meat and potatoes of 5GW.

The Catch: Augmented Reality / Diminished Reality

Singularity Hub :  New Augmented Reality Software Removes Objects from Video Feeds in Real Time.

“What if you could remove all the ugliness in the world? It’s not a hypothetical question. Researchers at Ilmenau University of Technology in Germany have developed a new augmented reality technique that erases images from real time video. Called Diminished Reality, the software can take any area selected in a video feed and use photo-shop like adjustments to copy the surroundings into its place. Where once you saw an object now you see the object has been removed. A piece of your world has been erased. Diminished Reality records video from a camera and displays the modified result on a screen with only a 40ms delay. To your eyes it’s effectively instantaneous. Watch a demonstration of the augmented reality editing program in the video below. I’m blown away by how well it works in these early examples.”

Talk about giving with one hand and taking away with the other. Most of the applications I have come across for Augmented, and now Diminished, Reality are gaming / entertainment and advertising in the form of virtual pets, virtual LARP-type activities, and virtual advertising banners that can be highly targeted to individual persons. This demonstration seems closer to the espionage application of the really ugly shirt that played a key role in William Gibson’s novel Zero History (my review here) by rendering the character wearing it invisible to video surveillance by triggering a computer program deep in the London surveillance camera system (see questions five and six of this interview with Gibson) . It may not exactly be to that stage yet though it seems to me this is a very long step in that direction.

The Laughing Man is hacking your eyes!Considering this is a potentially very long, twisty, branching and strange road, the ability to modify reality in this way seems to have limitless implications. The 5GW theorist lurking in my brain (and clapping on the sidelines), also has to wonder about how easy it may one day become to seamlessly and unobtrusively cause distortion between perceived Observation and actual Observation before that information feeds into Orientation. Understanding the mechanisms of 5GW may be instructive in harnessing this type of power, it may also be vital in learning to protect against it.

The Catch: The Cognitive Dissonance of COIN

“The Catch” is, from here on, the heading and category for “Recommended Reading” posts here at Red Herrings.

The Catch: Recommended Reading

Recommended reading from Small Wars Journal:

The Cognitive Dissonance of COIN
Right Doctrine, Wrong War
by Jason Thomas

“The psychological investment in COIN is now so deep that the cognitive dissonance would be too great to change course or admit COIN is the right doctrine for the wrong war. Cognitive dissonance theory suggests that despite contrary evidence, people are biased to think of their choices as correct. Like climate change, so much has been invested in counterinsurgency with huge reputations at stake, that anyone who challenges COIN in Afghanistan could be labeled a COIN skeptic.  No matter how much we try to win the hearts and minds, no matter how many millions of dollars is spent on development and regardless of attempts to improve governance and eliminate corruption, the socio-cultural ecosystem of Afghanistan does not respond to the doctrine of counterinsurgency. While the pockets can be won the heart and minds in Afghanistan will always remain notoriously capricious.

 There are many reasons to continually question COIN from every angle, but the two this paper is concerned with are i) whether COIN could be the right military doctrine being applied in the wrong campaign; and ii) preparing for the next major unconventional war – as is often the case in political campaigns and war, we tend to find ourselves fighting on the issues, theories or practices in the last campaign.

 This paper will attempt to “play the ball and not the man”  by pointing to the range of reasons unique to Afghanistan on top of self-imposed obstacles that reinforce the hypothesis of right doctrine, wrong war.”

All in all, a thought-provoking paper that is well worth a read even if you don’t agree with the author’s argument. Personally, I don’t think COIN is the wrong doctrine for Afghanistan. At least, not all of Afghanistan. If the Taliban is seeking to create a parallel, non-secular, (Pakistan aligned) government that usurps the government of Kabul. That makes it an insurgency. The problem is using COIN in Afghanistan is that it is being used across the board, even in places where the Taliban isn’t active. If there isn’t an insurgency, you can’t wage a counterinsurgency. Personally, I think the disconnect about using COIN as the go-to doctrine of the U.S. forces, comes from an inflexibility of practitioners to have multiple doctrines. Everything is COIN because counterinsurgency is the sexy buzzword of the moment. However, COIN is not an anti-terrorism or homeland security doctrine. If you are chasing Bin Laden, you shouldn’t be using a COIN doctrine.

Actually, what I found most interesting about the article were the author’s 6 points for adapting COIN for future campaigns. I felt they had a great deal of 5GW resonance.

“The following are suggestions for improving the adaptability of COIN for future campaigns:

1. Stress test COIN and other military doctrines against a range of insurgent scenarios taking place in potential host countries – what is unique about the cultural and tribal dynamics.

2. Anticipate the next host nations and begin a coordinated, international effort to limit the opportunity for the global jihadists to re-base themselves (Australia has done a good job with its intense support of governance, security and development initiatives in Indonesia) – almost an interntional version of COIN.”

3. Develop sophisticated social networking and internet countering-platforms devised by and run by maintstream, globally recognised and respected Muslim organisations.

4. Intesify the global ‘hearts and minds’ campaign to convince young, mobile and increasingly sophisticated Muslims that the West is not a threat to their belief systems. This must be coordinated at an international level across governments and non-government actors.

5. Identify communications strategies and tactics to undermine the jihadists perceived legitimacy in the minds of eye of mainstream media. Every time the insurgents claim ‘civilians have been killed by US forces’ this is treated as fact by the media.

6. Avoid seeking a generic, off-the-shelf, model of COIN devised from previous campaigns to be applied to the next campaign.”

All six of these points are in line with 5GW thinking. First, working to trigger established rule-sets of a target population’s Orientation by feeding them information in specific context, through their own prefered information channels, is the basis of Fifth Gradient doctrines. 5GW is also inherently strategic in scope, meaning that anticipating the next hot-spot and preemptively targeting it with 5GW operations is required. Above all, adaptability is a hallmark of, not only 5GW, but XGW itself. A basic tenet of XGW is to create a specific doctrine for the situation at hand that is X+1 of the doctrine being used by your opponent, there is no such thing as an “off-the-shelf” doctrine.

The 5GW Handbook is Here! But What is 5GW?

Ned Ludd has had his day!

Trees have died!

Ink has been spilled!

The paper book edition of The Handbook of 5GW has arrived!

I anticipate that with the launch of tree-based version of The Handbook of 5GW, some confusion might arise about what exactly 5GW is and how it works. Honestly, the confusion already exists, even in the pages of the Handbook. However, I thought I would try to at least give a general sense of 5GW from my perspective.

First of all, the term 5GW.

Depending upon who are you are reading and at what time it was written 5GW can either mean Fifth Generation Warfare, or Fifth Gradient Warfare. The origin of Fifth Generation Warfare is the continuation of a concept that warfare falls into four basic “generations” put forward by William S. Lind, Colonel Keith Nightengale (USA), Captain John F. Schmitt (USMC), Colonel Joseph W. Sutton (USA), and Lieutenant Colonel Gary I. Wilson (USMCR) in an article for the October 1989 Marine Corps Gazette entitled “The Changing Face of War: Into the Fourth Generation“. I won’t summarize the article, you should read it for yourself. In any case what the article envisions, love it or hate it, is very thought-provoking.

The problem with “generations”.

So, back at the beginning everyone exploring the concept used the term “generations” including myself. The very earliest entries in the D5GW category here at Red Herrings (cross-posts from the now defunct group blog Dreaming 5GW) will all speak in terms of generations. As implied by “generations” it seemed logical that there would be a fifth generation to follow the fourth, only one problem. Very early on Lind declared that there was no fifth generation, at least not yet, and not for the foreseeable future. But wait, how then can there be a book about 5GW? Simple answer, lots of people ignored Lind and went right on formulating designs for 5GW, imagining shadowy conspiracy and techno/nano/bio armageddon. One major problem with that. He was right, as far as the “generations” concept from “The Changing Face of War” is concerned, there can’t be a fifth generation because everything forseeable falls into the fourth generation.

Why? Good question.

Models and Frameworks.

For clarity sake I refer to Lind’s generational model as the Generations of Modern Warfare (GMW) model. The reason why GMW can’t contain a fifth generation is because GMW is a historical model. You can’t go back to the Battle of Thermopylae and ask what generation the Spartans fall under because they are from well before the Peace of Westphalia where Lind begins the GMW model. They are before the first generation, so they can’t be considered under the terms of “Modern Warfare” from GMW. 

Think of it like the difference between an Atari 2600 and an Xbox 360. Arguably the Atari is 1GW and the Xbox is 4GW. Where then is a fifty year old pinball machine? Exactly.

Essentially, what theorists were trying to do with GMW was use it like a framework; a tool for classifying types of warfare. Sadly, GMW doesn’t / can’t work that way. I know, I tried. However, once the fact that it couldn’t became apparent, it opened the door for the creation of a framework, a descendant of GMW perhaps, that could be used to classify warfare. This framework is known as XGW, and instead of generations it has “gradients.” Follow the link so I don’t have to summarize what XGW does. I know I wrote it. I should be able to summarize it, but this is getting long enough as it is and I haven’t even gotten to how 5GW works.

Ok, so how does Fifth “Gradient” Warfare work?

For the moment ignore all the scary spooky imagery of Shadow War, Invisible War, Ghost War, Secret War. It either sounds good to marketing people, or elicits a ‘yeah right’ response from people who know better than to believe the marketing. 5GW uses all available leverage to manipulate and influence (affect) to create second and third order effects leading to a desired outcome. Essentially affect for effect, or contextual warfare. The reason 5GW has all those cool sounding names attached to it is because if done right, secretly / from the shadows, those influenced and manipulated will never even realize they have been manipulated at all. Those targeted by 5GW will carry on, making choices and decisions in their best interests (as they see it), without ever knowing that the information coming to them, their Observation (See John Boyd’s OODA), has been messed with, leading them in a specific direction.

Magicians and Grifters.

The best way I know of to explain 5GW is to speak in terms of magicians and grifters. When you go to a magic show, a good magician will mess with your Observation. Magicians use sleight-of-hand, misdirection, and a host of other tricks to do something you don’t expect. Happily, their purpose is mainly to entertain, though they have been known to turn their talents to other purposes (See: Jasper Maskelyne). A magician’s magic works because we believe there is nothing up their sleeve, in the hat, under the table. We don’t see the right hand because we are too busy paying attention to the left hand, or the pretty girl. A grifter, or confidence man, while using a slightly different repertoire of skills, plays upon that very same belief mechanism, putting you in a situation where appearances (Observations) lead you to believe something that is false or misleading because you are too busy being helpful, or thinking about spending that crisp hundred-dollar bill.

The thing is we want to believe in ourselves and our own abilities to think and act. Also, we really don’t like to feel like we got suckered. This is why many 5GW theorists think that a 5GW campaign, even if poorly executed and discovered, would be laughed off as some sort of wild conspiracy theory should it come to light.

Hey wait! Shenanigans!

Fifth Gradient WARFARE? None of this sounds anything remotely like WARFARE!

Ok, you caught me. It really isn’t warfare. So why do we keep calling it that? Honestly we keep calling it that because when we 5GW theorists started talking about this stuff we were thinking in terms of GMW, hence warfare. 5GW was the shorthand we all used and it just stuck. I don’t think there is any way to get rid of it now without really confusing people.

The other answer to the warfare/ not warfare question is that when the XGW framework was created, it was broadened to include not only warfare, but conflict and confrontation of all kinds. The lower the gradient a doctrine fits into, the more it will rely on the use of kinetic force, and the less it uses non-kinetic force. Likewise, the higher the gradient the less kinetic force, the more non-kinetic force. That makes 5GW very non-kinetic. There are also considerations that the higher the gradient the more strategic in nature actions are, the more indirect the effects are, and the more effective against lower gradient doctrines a practitioner should be, but those either need posts of their own or already have them.

One really good example, though, is insurgency and counterinsurgency. Classic guerilla insurgency is generally thought to fall into the fourth gradient or 4GW. Counterinsurgency, in general, falls into the fifth gradient. Interestingly, 5GW you can watch happening on the nightly news, but that is fodder for another post. Insurgency is, on the whole, more kinetic than counterinsurgency. IEDs, RPGs, kidnapping, assassination and fear being the insurgent’s weapons. As such, there is much more of a reliance on threat, intimidation and force to effect a population. Counterinsurgency, on the other hand, is kinetic only as a last resort. Its weapons are cups of chai, relationships, jobs, soccer balls, electricity, security. Often times, the last thing you would want to do is pull a trigger, or kick down a door, though, in the interests of security that may occur. The counterinsurgent had better then be following a clear process, act with restraint and be aware of the consequences of mistakes.

Wrap it up already!

I hope this in some way helps. Really, you should read the Handbook. My view is but one of many and the Handbook is chock full of really, really smart people writing about something that is really interesting in its implications from all sorts of points of view.

On the (Virtual) Bookshelf: The Handbook of 5GW


The Handbook of 5GW (Kindle Edition)

Edited by Dr. Daniel H. Abbott  a.k.a. TDAXP

(and containing a chapter authored by Yours Truly)

This is not a review but rather an announcement of the official launch of the Kindle edition of The Handbook of 5GW.

I had the honor of being one of the contributors to this book. My chapter deals with how, in light of the events of 9/11, I found myself drawn into a discussion of a form of warfare that, I envisioned, would provide the doctrine to combat the methods and means of those who had attacked the United States on that fateful day. I would like to think that I have had a role in shaping and expanding that discussion into a concept of even greater significance and utility.

From the Amazon description:

“The successful application of the Fifth Generation of Warfare (5GW) is “indistinguishable from magic” (Rees 2009, following in the spirit of Clarke’s Law, propounded by the author of 2001: A Space Odyssey) “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”). The Fifth-Generation warrior hides in the shadows, or in the static. So, then, how can analysts and researchers study and discuss 5GW?

Other questions also demand answers. What is the xGW framework, which many theorists use to describe 5GW? What alternatives to the xGW framework exist? What 5GWs have been observed? What are the source documents for the xGW framework? What is the universe of discourse that the xGW framework emerged from? Why bother trying to understand 5GW?

This handbook attempts to provide systematic answers to these questions in several major sections, each of which is written by many contributors. While this handbook records many different voices of 5GW research, it speaks with one voice on the need to understand 5GW, the fifth gradient of warfare.”

As a teaser, an iteration of my Framework for XGW appears in my chapter.

My posts on 5GW, many from the sadly disappeared (reactivated!) Dreaming 5GW, can be found under the D5GW  category here at Red Herrings. Other posts on XGW in general, and those written after the demise of Dreaming 5GW, are found under the XGW category.

A distraction and digression of the amusing kind: Citizen Fouche’s sales pitch for The Handbook of 5GW is not to be missed.

Passive 5GW

Curtis Weeks has an excellent post regarding the means of executing 5GW at his new 5GW blog Musing 5GW (be sure to check out the first three posts drawing 5GW parallels and lessons from the anime Death Note: here, here and here).

I have been thinking about something that intersects with his line of thought, that 5GW may fall into two different types of efforts, passive and active. Thinking about how that might specifically be accomplished on the passive side brought to mind my favorite mentalist Derren Brown. He is the architect of my favorite 5GWish effort, 5GW Chess and upon further exploring has another passive 5GWish trick up his sleeve.

You call it subliminal advertising, I call it 5GW.

Same trick. Different target. Different inputs. Same basic results.

This ‘trick’, much like the chess trick, is a specifically created and controlled situation. In the chess trick, the means of 5GW acts in an active manner in that it specifically removes certain choices from the targeted players. The subliminal advertising trick (also an example of memetic manipulation) instead is designed to offer additional choices to the targeted advertising team by seeding their route to Brown’s office with multiple subtle memes. Because these memes are tailored to fit in specific ways with the task Brown sets to the advertising teams makes them more attractively usable and causes them to think down particular paths.

Inception: Summer 2010

For my 5GW friends, a distraction and diversion of the movie trailer kind…


I’m not much of a DiCaprio fan but I have to admit this looks pretty cool in a Matrix kind of way.

5GW: Manipulating Observation

Via Danger Room:

Insurgents Intercept Drone Video in King-Size Security Breach

The 5GWish money quote:

If you think militants are going to be content to just observe spy drone feeds, it’s time to reconsider. “Folks are not merely going to listen/watch what we do when they intercept the feeds, but also start to conduct ‘battles of persuasion’; that is, hacking with the intent to disrupt or change the content, or even ‘persuade’ the system to do their own bidding,” Peter Singer, author of Wired for War, tells Danger Room.

This has long been the nightmare scenario within Pentagon cybersecurity circles: a hacker not looking to take down the military grid, but to exploit it for his own purposes. How does a soldier trust an order, if he doesn’t know who else is listening – or who gave the order, in the first place? “For a sophisticated adversary, it’s to his advantage to keep your network up and running. He can learn what you know. He can cause confusion, delay your response times – and shape your actions,” says one Defense Department cybersecurity official tells Danger Room.


These are just the sort of systemic vulnerabilities that 5GW actors seek to exploit.

(Cross-posted at Dreaming 5GW)

XGW and Torture

Cross Posted at Dreaming 5GW

When considering the use of torture within the framework of XGW it becomes clear that torture has real utility at only three gradients of doctrine.


0GW Torture:

0GW – Confrontation and Conflict at its most basic level is an expression of natural selection. This genetic imperative is the principle behind any doctrine that is essentially the projection of Force for the survival of an individual organism.

When considering torture from the most basic, survival, level consideration of morality has no bearing upon the use of any method that ensures survival. The imperative is the continuation of the line, therefore, so long as the subject of the torture isn’t of that line any method of information extraction is justified.


4GW Torture:

4GW – Fourth gradient doctrines are based upon the principle of the attainment of a functional invulnerability that prevents the opponent from being able to orient upon a threat and creates a perception that saps the ability of the opponent to function effectively.

The use of torture at the fourth gradient is premised upon the creation of a sense of dread of the unknown in the minds of the opponent. Torture becomes a method not just of gathering information, but a weapon of fear. Used as an extreme, the opponent may have a fear of capture by the 4GW actor that prevents the opponent from orienting effectively, always considering most immediately the need to be able to escape rather than the most immediate method to execute their own doctrine. The morality of the use of torture at this gradient is ignored in the necessity of its utility to inspire fear.


5GW Torture:

5GW – Fifth gradient doctrines are based upon the principle of manipulation of the context of the observations of an opponent in order to achieve a specific effect.

Torture at the fifth gradient takes on a different aspect from the use of torture at 0GW and 4GW. At those gradients the negative moral aspect of torture is either irrelevant or used to give torture utility. For 5GW the moral aspect of torture is the most important aspect. In most  (if not all cases) 5GW is a warfare of competing ideas and ideals. At the fifth gradient the least desirable outcome is to have your ideology linked to an overwhelmingly negative meme like torture either  through your own actions, or by the manipulation of an opponent that links torture to your ideology.


Do the Ends Justify the Means?

Calling it torture or “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques” makes no difference, if a method is seen to be torture it carries a negative moral connotation. As it is argued above, for two of the three gradients this is either irrelevant or desirable, however, for 5GW the moral aspect is paramount. At the risk of editorializing, the United States of America is at its very core an expression of an ideology, an expression of connectivity and freedom and the ideal that all good things are possible with enough hard work and determination. As such, The United States of America in spreading that ideal must always approach any conflict or confrontation from the fifth gradient mind-set.  Because of that, the USA must never engage in a method or doctrine that has a negative moral aspect, and must always guard against an opponent’s attempt to manipulate the USA into a morally negative action,  lest that negative meme be linked to the positive ideological foundation of the country.

For 5GW the means justify the end.

Swine Flu as System Perturbation

Cross-posted at Dreaming 5GW

Rule Set – System Perturbation – New Rule Set

Going back to some of my very first considerations of Fifth Gradient Warfare (Fifth Generation Warfare at the time), this very simple three part progression is the main concept that informs the process of the directed manipulation of systems that is at the heart of 5GW.  The attention that is being given to the Swine Flu outbreak offers a very good opportunity to explore the utility of this process.

The Bad:

The worst of all system perturbations is exemplified by the Black Swan scenario. This is a system perturbation that is completely unexpected and because there a no rule sets or few weak rule sets that have been established to deal with such situations, the chaos that is created is potentially massive. It may be so massive, in fact, that the system never recovers, that new rule sets aren’t able to be created or are even weaker than before, making the system even more fragile. The H5N1 Bird Flu (or other pandemic illness) is sometimes talked about as such a system perturbation due to fears that no matter what preparations are made ahead of an outbreak, the health system will be quickly overwhelmed and cease to be effective regardless of the response. While the Swine Flu doesn’t seem to be, at this point, as dangerous as Bird Flu, it is behaving in a manner that is consistent with how a Bird Flu type pandemic might begin.

The Not Quite as Bad:

While a Fifth Gradient actor might well engineer a Black Swan type system perturbation scenario in order to influence the creation of new rule sets, there is an alternate approach known as ‘Boiling the Frog’. In this sort of scenario the system perturbation is very controlled in scope in order to place calculated stresses on a system. The point of this may be to cause a collapse of systems much like a Black Swan event, but it can also serve a different agenda that highlights the ability of Fifth Gradient doctrines to be used on multiple sides of a confrontation or conflict. In this kind of situation 5GW doctrine may be used in order to strengthen as much as weaken rule sets. Swine Flu offers an opportunity for this kind of 5GW manipulation.

Using Swine Flu to turn a Black Swan Grey:

Because Swine Flu appears to be very similar to Bird Flu yet, less dangerous (at least at this point), it offers a 5GW actor (who may have potentially created such as system perturbation or may merely seize the moment) the opportunity to stress and manipulate the infections disease response system in order to strengthen those parts of the system (rule sets) that are effective, eliminate or repair the parts of the system that are ineffective, and create new rule sets that cover situations that hadn’t been considered before (for example, the most infectious part of the Swine Flu so far has been the uninformed panic it has inspired on users of Twitter. Filters for such occurrences are being created by the community and will doubtless come into use on Twitter and in other social networking platforms in future situations).

Consider the Anthrax letters that followed in the wake of September 11, 2001. While they were undoubtedly the work of a very angry and disturbed individual, the response they caused served more to strengthen the system than it did to permanently disrupt the system. Now mail is scanned for agents such as Anthrax and potential targets of such attacks are much more aware of the risks as well as the correct response to a potential attack. Additionally, law enforcement now has the experience of responding to such attacks and what is involved in tracking those who would perpetrate those sorts of attacks.

Swine Flu offers the potential for a similar sort of  ‘practice run’ for an outbreak of pandemic influenza. The rule sets involved will now be subjected to real-life stresses that cannot be createdby any ‘simulation’ and will involve, by necessity, all aspects of the response system at the same time. Only at such times can the true strengths and vulnerabilities of the system be recognized.

Non-Kinetic Uses for Robotics in Counterinsurgency

I am currently reading Wired For War: Robotics and 21st Century Conflict by P. W. Singer, as well as following the Wired for War Symposium at CTLab, previously mentioned here, so understandably robots are very much on my mind.

Matt Armstrong of MountainRunner has an article in the symposium that discusses the military robot in the context of General Charles Krulak’s ‘strategic corporal’.

“The intoxicating allure of technology risks unintended consequences in the psychological struggle for minds and wills in modern conflict. In my many conversations on the “public diplomacy” of unmanned warfare, few consider the robots, autonomous or remote controlled, in a war fought among the people. How do we build relationships with the locals in the sterility of robot-human interfaces? Will improved human-robot interfaces really overcome the understandable perception that American lives are worth more than locals?”

My question (via an on-line networking platform) was what were the possible non-kinetic applications of robotics that could contribute as effective and/or strategic aids to a counterinsurgency effort, yet not be percieved as ‘military’? Perhaps building infrastructure (I was thinking along the line of robotic street sweepers, pothole fillers, well diggers and underground pipe and cable layers).

Matt Armstrong quickly responded:

“Strategic aids” as you put it could include unmanned water and food trucks, even garbage trucks (remember SWET? “Sewage, Water, Electricity, Trash” as an effective COIN approach?). Then there’s tele-medicine, and more.”

Seeing as how 5GW, being a response to 4GW guerilla/insurgent warfare, has greater non-kinetic than kinetic utility what else could the “and more” include? How could robotics (autonomous, semi-autonomous, or remotely controlled) be deployed as part of a larger 5GW effort? What sort of scenarios might they be involved in?

Already on the table:

Street sweeping

Road repair

Well drilling

Underground pipe and cable laying

Water and food delivery trucks

Garbage trucks


Reading Note: Grand Strategy and 5GW

From Great Powers: America and the World After Bush by Thomas P.M. Barnett

Pg. 375

“This is what the next generation of warfare will be all about: achieving nonkinetic victories by steering other nations’ ambitions.”

A quote so short from a book so extensive is, of course, taken out of its context. Barnett isn’t speaking here about the Generations of Modern Warfare (GMW) or about XGW (or at least there is no mention of it in the director’s commentary or endnotes), but he is in this section, and throughout the book, talking about grand strategy, the pinnacle level of expressions of Force, a level for which the mainly non-kinetic doctrines of the fifth gradient are optimized.

Smart Power

From 7:02 – 7:21

“We must use what has been called smart power. The full range of tools at our disposal: diplomatic, economic, military, political, legal and cultural. Picking the right tool or combination of tools for each situation. With smart power, diplomacy will be the vanguard of our foriegn policy.”

That sounds kind of familiar:

“An emergent theory of warfare premised upon manipulation of multiple economic, political, social and military forces in multiple domains to effect positional changes in systems and achieve a consilience of effects to leverage a specific goal or set of circumstances.”

So what is smart power? According to Joseph Nye; “Smart power is the combination of hard and soft power. Soft power is the ability to get what you want through attraction rather than coercion or payments.”

I see smart power as using the right combination of kinetic and non-kinetic force. More specifically, having the most effective combination of doctrines at the tactical, operational, strategic and grand strategic levels of the use of Force, in order to most effectively accomplish a desired goal or circumstance.

The XGW Framework: Classification and Creation of Doctrines for Conflict and Confrontation

Cross posted at Dreaming 5GW


The following is an attempt to categorize the principles behind the doctrines that comprise each gradient of the XGW framework. Please note that the XGW framework is not the Generations of Modern Warfare model described by Lind, Nightengale, Schmitt, Sutton and Wilson in The Changing Face of War: Into the Fourth Generation. The XGW framework is a descendant of that model and shares some characteristics such as the carryover of elements from one gradient to the next.


Other authors and thinkers whose ideas and concepts greatly contributed to this framework include, but are not limited to; Robert Leonhard, John Boyd, Thomas X. Hammes, Rupert Smith, Tom Barnett, Howard Bloom, Dan Abbot, Curtis Gale Weeks, ‘Purpleslog,’ and John Robb. I stand on the shoulders of giants.


Special thanks are owed to the commentators who through constructive argument and devil’s advocacy helped refine the framework into its current incarnation.




Introduction to the Framework



Premise of Conflict and Confrontation:

The XGW framework is based upon the concept of conflict and confrontation from General Rupert Smith’s The Utility of Force. The XGW framework addresses any instance where two or more actors come into conflict and/or confrontation be it physical, ideological or political.


Premise of Basic Principles:

Each gradient of XGW embodies the basic principle behind an expression of Force. This addresses not the ‘how’ but ‘why’ each gradient of doctrine functions as it does. Each gradient is intended to be broad and inclusive to account for all possible doctrines. The XGW framework is also intended to allow for new gradients to be created, accounting for doctrines that do not fit in any of the six existing gradients, 0GW through 5GW.


Kinetic and Non-kinetic Force:

The doctrines of the XGW framework embody expressions of Force both kinetic and non-kinetic In the XGW framework, kinetic Force has greater utility at lower gradients of the framework, and less utility at the higher gradients of the framework. This utility is mirrored by the utility of non-kinetic Force, which is lowest at the lower gradients of the framework and greatest at the highest gradients of the framework.



Being premised upon base principles, the doctrines of the XGW gradients are effectively independent of technological innovation. In principle, a practitioner should be able to pursue any gradient of doctrine with any available technology.


Classification and Application:

The XGW framework is intended to have two separate but complimentary functions. The framework is first a guide to classify and understand the principle behind doctrines being employed by actors in any conflict or confrontation. Second, a practitioner should use the knowledge gained by this classification in order to devise doctrines that perform at a higher gradient than those being used by their opponent. This problem-solving process is expressed as x+1 where ‘x’ is the gradient of doctrine being used by an actor and ‘+1’ is the next higher gradient of doctrine. Each gradient of doctrine’+1’ possesses, in principle, an inherent advantage over doctrines of the previous gradient.




The XGW Framework


0 (Base) Gradient – Darwinian Warfare – 0GW


Confrontation and Conflict at its most basic level is an expression of natural selection. This genetic imperative is the principle behind any doctrine that is essentially the projection of Force for the survival of an individual organism.


          Note: Howard Bloom argues in The Lucifer Principle that ideas/memes act in the same manner.



First Gradient – Cooperative Warfare – 1GW


Cooperative warfare doctrines are based upon the principle of creating organizations that require the individual to surrender control to the group in order to project Force to accomplish goals that are necessary to the survival of the group.



Second Gradient – Attrition Warfare – 2GW


The Principle behind attrition warfare describes doctrines that use the strength of the attacker to target the strength of the opponent.



Third Gradient – Maneuver Warfare – 3GW


Maneuver Warfare doctrines are based upon the principle of avoiding the strength of the opponent in order to attack the critical vulnerability of the opponent.



          Note: The principles of 2GW and 3GW are informed mostly by the thinking of Col. Robert Leonhard’s books, The Art of Maneuver: Maneuver Warfare Theory and AirLand Battle, and The Principles of War for the Information Age.He bases these principles upon the concepts and writings of Sun-Tzu, Carl von Clausewitz, John Boyd, William Lind, and B. H. Liddell-Hart, among others.



Fourth Gradient – Moral Warfare – 4GW


Fourth gradient doctrines are based upon the principle of the attainment of a functional invulnerability that prevents the opponent from being able to orient upon a threat and creates a perception that saps the ability of the opponent to function effectively.



Fifth Gradient – Contextual Warfare – 5GW


Fifth gradient doctrines are based upon the principle of manipulation of the context of the observations of an opponent in order to achieve a specific effect.

Building a framework: the premises

Originally published 1/10/09 at Dreaming 5GW.

There are a few basic premises that should 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 set theoretical definition, but it must be able to potentially exist and be able to be expressed on the continuum of warfare within the framework.

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

3) The framework must express an ability to 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 on the continuum 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. Also, different types of warfare must be able to co-exist at each of these levels.

Recommended Reading: In Harmonium

Originally published 8/25/08 at Dreaming 5GW.

Notes Towards a Theory of Asymmetric Conflict. 

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

 Lots of great food for thought here that resonates well with XGW theory, specifically the concepts of perception (4GW) and context (5GW).

Demographic Warfare

Originally published 8/17/08 at Dreaming 5GW.

From Russia Policy; Trying to Make a Virue Out of Having Ceded the Initiative at Zenpundit in a comment by Seerov.

“This war is the result of the old Soviet policy of demographic engineering.  The Soviets (Especially Stalin) would “dilute” its bordering States with ethnic Russians.  This gave the Soviet leadership some “good guys” in every surrounding country.  Sometimes this demographic engineering would entail removing an ethnic group and “replanting” it somewhere in Siberia or the Caucuses.  China has similar policies towards Tibet and other breakaway regions.  They’ve relocated millions of Han-Chinese into Tibet in order to have “goodguys” there.  There’s some who accuse the US government of doing the same thing.  A working/middle class ethnic coalition of European Americans in the US is a threat to the US elite. In order to “dilute this threat,” the elites had to push by forced diversity initiatives, and remove the freedom of association from people.  The US government also uses psychological and economic warfare to make sure that the White middle/working classes accept forced diversity. 
This policy may have worked while the Soviet apparatus was in place, but once it fell, these groups then started pursuing their own ethnic interests, instead of “Soviet Interests.”  Of course, as the old Nation State Order gives-way to Hyper-Globalization, I’m pretty sure that more and more ethnic groups will be asking “is it good for the _Fill_IN_THE_Blank_, when making a policy decisions. 
Today’s Russia uses ethnic Russians in a way that constitutes some sort of Warfare(5GW?)?  I think we can call it demographic warfare?  The Soviets conducted “demographic engineering,” as these actions were for the “health” of the State.  The US and China conduct “demographic engineering.” Modern Russia conduct’s “demographic warfare” to help control territory past its borders.  Russia can use the excuse that its “preventing genocide” in almost all of its bordering nations.”

I think the idea of Demographic Warfare is interesting but I don’t think it really qualifies as 5GW, rather more along the lines of ethic gerrymandering.

The 5GW approach, to my mind, would be more along the line of triggering a specific identity in a targeted individual, group or organization. We all carry around many, many identities, they come from our familes and our professions, where we went to school, the country we are a citizen of, as well as what country our ancestors came from. To be able to cause a target to think of something through the lens of a specific identity is, as far as I am concerned, is the most subtle and effective manipulation of context possible, and therefore 5GW.

(Major hat tip to Stephen Pampinella)