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Posts tagged “D5GW

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.


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.

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.

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)

More 5GW Fiction: Halting State by Charles Stross

Originally published 8/6/08 at Dreaming 5GW.

Halting State

by Charles Stross

 Halting State is set in the near furure and centers initially around a bank robbery. That in itself isn’t especially SciFi or even 5GWish except that this particular bank robbery was carried out against a bank in an MMORPG virtual world by a band of Orcs backed up by a Dragon. As the investigation starts to gain a clear picture of what actually happened this has very serious national security implications.

 Much like Daemon, the 5GWish aspect of Halting State involves how communications technology, MMORPGs, Augmented Reality (AR) and other concepts that people now use for, or look to be the next wave in, entertainment and work, can be easily and invisibly turned into platforms for warfare. Especially warfare by proxy.

 Not to spoil any plot aspects of the story but those interested in 5GW should pay very close attention to SPOOKS, an espionage game played by two of the main characters and STEAMING, a game that is under development at the beginning of the book.

Blog Tank: National Strategy for a Few Nuclear Weapons – 5GW

Originally published 7/15/08 at Dreaming 5GW.

An Interesting puzzle for 5GW thinking. (Hat tip: Zenpundit)

Blog Tank: National Strategy for a Few Nuclear Weapons – Expanded

by Cheryl Rofer

“Andy at Nuclear Mangoes reminded me over the weekend of my irritation that nobody has addressed the strategy of one to a few nuclear weapons. That’s a different problem than something in the range of 5-10, which is a different problem from a higher number. None of these have been addressed systematically for today’s world.


So let’s have a blog tank. Anyone who wants to participate should post a scenario (or scenarios) on their blog or, if you don’t have a blog, in the comments to this post. Here is the problem I want to address:

What strategies are available to a country with fissionable material sufficient for 1-5 nuclear weapons, some of which may be assembled? Take into account probable responses, and assume some sort of rationality on the holders of these weapons and material. You may specifically refer to Iran and North Korea, or any other nation, or make the scenario(s) more general. Flesh out the scenario with some support.”


My thinking is that it really isn’t very cost effective for a country to build a nuclear program that provided only a few useable weapons, Once the infrastructure is in place an arsenal of a few dozen weapons would likely be possible as a country plays for time, betting that the program will reach maturity before international sanctions could ruin the country. From there it just becomes a question of the range of the possible delivery vehicles. In the event of military preemption before the program reaches its production goal, the existing weapons, if used, would most likely be used tactically, a situation that already has a well developed doctrine.

A more interesting scenario to me is what would happen if a nation or organization without a nuclear arms program should happen to find itself in possession of one to five nuclear weapons, a few former Soviet nuclear artillery shells for example. Perhaps through some sort of logistical error a few of these rounds made it into circulation in the Caucasus. Several countries militarily active in the region, including Russia, have 2S7 Pion self-propelled guns and / or 2S4 Tulip self-propelled mortars capable of firing 203mm and 240mm nuclear shells respectively. The yield of a slightly larger US weapon, the W19,  was 15-20 kilotons. Reportedly, Russian weapons had higher yields than their U. S. counterparts so this range seems a good ballpark for comparison and places it in approximately the same range as Little Boy and Fat Man, the bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This gives these devices a very respectable amount of potential destruction to compliment the greatest possible asset for these weapons, their portability and size. Yes, these weapons are intended to be used tactically, but is it possible to craft a scenario to use them strategically?

This situation also suggests four different types of players (aside from the pure terrorist).

1) The Outpost of Tyranny #7:  Basically, a country with an authoritarian regime that wants to make waves with the big players, yet doesn’t want to be paid a visit by the Leviathan and will use these weapons to prevent that possibility.


2) The Independence movement:  A country or organization that desires to set itself apart and / or establish its own country or government independent from the government that currently rules it. They want to change the map and they want to ensure that the change is permanent.


3) The Prince among the Paupers:  Several countries around the world are making a concerted effort to increase their connectivity and enter the ranks of the Core while their neighbors remain firmly and resolutely in the Gap. and unfortunately those neighbors only seem to export unrest and deter foreign investment. Worse they quite often become the fourth type of player.


4) The Covetous Neighbor:  These are countries, mired in third-world status, that see more prosperous and resource rich neighbors around them. Should they acquire the means, how could they acquire those resources, and how would they prevent the world for stopping them?


Looking at the problem through the problem-solving lens of XGW  a few considerations become rapidly apparent for all of these players. The opposition to the possession of these weapons will likely respond with a 2GW, 3GW or 4GW (especially in the case of player #3) doctrine. Therefore a 4GW or 5GW doctrine is required. Also, as General Sir Rupert Smith would argue, the force needs to be placed in a political context or it will have no Utility. Therefore, I propose a 4GW doctrine for the operational use of these weapons within a political context shaped by a strategy using a 5GW doctrine.


The 4GW Operation:

As noted before, the greatest strength of these weapons is their size and portability. Assuming that the devices could be modified for transportation and detonation they could be possibly smuggled virtually anywhere in the world. This capability means that the weapons could very well be pre-positioned as nuclear blackmail. To add to the confusion of where the weapons are positioned and to maintain the ongoing threat I envision a nuclear shell game, where dummy weapons (maybe enhanced with slightly radioactive medical waste) are emplaced alongside the real weapons in various points around a target with dummy weapons ‘allowed’ to be discovered from time to time, or whenever an object lesson is desired on the part of the player emplacing them. Each of the players that I have described could find targets that would serve their purposes in this way. As 4GW this is a strike against the will of the target, making them choose between their political goal in opposing the ‘player’ or sacrificing something potentially very valuable to them (like the center of their capital city, military base or main shipping port). The more weapons that are available, the greater the potential for deterrence.


The 5GW Strategy:

 Ironically, even though the 4GW Operation benefits from more weapons being available, the 5GW strategy only requires one (and with the proper preparation you might even be able to get away with none, but that’s an advanced class). Essentially, the objective is to prove the potential of multiple weapons by openly displaying the existence of at least one weapon. Should you possess only two, one should be test-detonated and the other should be openly displayed to an authority that can realiably vouch for its authenticity. This very controlled transparency is a 5GW affect on observation that triggers existing assumptions, rule-sets and responses both in countries that are targeted and in countries that are merely in the audience. At this point even if the target believes you are bluffing your target must at least honor the threat. When that happens the shell game your 4GW Operation is playing may as well be Three-Card Monte. The key to making that happen is for the player to act in every way as if the weapons actually exist, and that the player has the ability and the will to use them. This means having a dedicated logistical and security force to service and guard nothing, exercises to employ weapons you don’t have, foreign policy that embodies deterrence by weapons that don’t exist. The reason for this is that your enemies will search relentlessly for evidence of your bluff, yet each exercise, each discovered operation, each policy decision, each and every action taken as if your nuclear capability is a reality is a confirmation that your capability is a reality.

Where You Vote and How You Vote: Proto-5GW Thinking in a Study of the Context of Voting

Originally published 6/26/08 at Dreaming 5GW.

From NPR News: All Things Considered.

Study: Your Polling Place Affects How You Vote

“June 23, 2008 · A new study shows that where you vote affects how you vote. People who vote in schools, for example, are more likely to support a school funding initiative. The researchers suggest that the same sort of psychology might affect people who vote in churches.”

This story caught my attention not only because it has to do with elections (see #3), but because as proto-5GW thinking (not secrecy-shrouded full-on 5GW) it is an observable manipulation of context. Granted, in this particular study the difference in the voting pattern is small, yet with only this one variable of context being affected there is a measurable difference in the effect. I would envision a true 5GW actor affecting multiple variables in order to achieve a desired context and an ultimate effect that has become compounded in the process.


Contextual priming: Where people vote affects how they vote
by Jonah Berger, Marc Meredith , and S. Christian Wheeler 


5GW Chess

Originally published 6/18/08 at Dreaming 5GW.

This is from a comment I left over at Phatic Communion in a conversation that had to do with Centers of Gravity (CoG).

“It seems to me that 5GW is less about looking for one particular CoG (be it stregth or weakness) but about engaging the target on as many different chessboards as possible and attacking the CoG that gains you the most advantage on each board.”

The idea of multiple chessboards reminded me of something else that I saw about a year ago on a television program starring mentalist / illusionist / magician Derren Brown and marked for possible 5GW exploration. (Actually Derren Brown could be the subject of a whole series of 5GW posts, something I may have to further explore. Stage Magic and Illusion as 5GW is one of my original topics of exploration.) The lesson to be gained from this particular situation isn’t exactly the one I was going for in the comment at PC, but there is a 5GW lesson there.

So what is the lesson? I’ll leave that to the readers to put in the comments. I know what I see, maybe somebody else will see something even deeper.

Red Herrings Note: Comment by Arherring

I don’t know if I’m jumping the gun but I’m going to put in the ‘lesson’ as I see it now. Sorry if I didn’t give enough opportunity for readers to weigh in.

I think Curtis is thinking along the same lines as I am but I’m looking at it from a slightly different point of view.

To me there was only one person in this who was being manipulated, and Brown is able to do this because he is thinking on all three levels of conflict and his opponents (or targets) are not or are actively restricted from doing so.

Tactical: This is level of each of the individual games. At the tactical level Brown is only playing one game. The rest of his opponents are playing each other.

“In truth, they really were playing and choosing their own moves, based upon their own observation of the board/pieces and according to their own understanding of the game.”

Indeed, they are just doing what they naturally do and by proxying them he is guaranteed to win half and lose half of the games. His opponents, by design, may only work on this level. Even if one or more of his opponents suspects Brown is playing them against each other the asymmetric number of opponents, the statement that he has been studying them individually, and that he feels utterly prepared, should be enough to keep them from saying anything at least until the event is over. Additionally, they all came to play chess, so they are already thinking of the event in that context.

Operational: Brown has restricted/redirected the Observation of his targets so that they cannot operate at his level except to observe when each game ends and who is the winner of the game. However, there is only one player that Brown needs to notice this.

Strategic: While I am not sure if Brown’s target was actually the last game to finish or not (possibly it was editing) the positioning of Robert Chan, the only opponent Brown was actually playing, at table 9 meant that it is almost a certainty that Chan will see Brown appear to beat one or more Grandmaster level players before their own game finishes. If it was the last game to finish then Chan saw Brown walk into a room full of greats and beat half of them at the same time (even though he really didn’t). This is the target and the level of Brown’s manipulation. The entire event is staged to convince Robert Chan that Brown is able to play on the level of a Grandmaster and that he is standing in a room full of giants with cameras watching. This engineered context contains the implied meme that as a chess player Chan has no real chance of beating Brown.

So he doesn’t.

XGW as a System for the Classification of Doctrines

Originally published 5/26/08 at Dreaming 5GW.

I posted this as part of a comment at TDAXP, part of an excellent discussion with several D5GW contributors and Smitten Eagle about the shape of XGW and its differences from the Generations of Modern Warfare (GMW). I’m posting it here so that I can possibly expand upon it and more easily refer back to it in the future.

0GW is the heading for genocidal/survival warfare. Individuals fight for themselves and for the right of their line to survive.

1GW encompasses projection of force to and from key geographical postions. The Spartans and Persians at Thermopylae is a good example of this as are the campaigns of Hannibal and many other battles from antiquity to modern times.

2GW covers doctrines of attrition, where force is used to degrade the physical ability of the enemy to oppose you by direct force. Agincourt is a prime example of this but so are many battles in the American Civil War, WW1 and WW2.

 3GW is for doctrines that dislocate the strength of an enemy with a strike at the essential weakness of an enemy (2GW is strength on strength, and 3GW is strength on weakness). The German bypassing of the Maginot Line is an example of avoiding strength to attack weakness and displacing the enemy. This kind of displacement may be positional, temporal, material and/or moral. The Mongols were masters of this, so was ‘Stonewall Jackson’ and Erwin Rommel.

 4GW makes the jump into the moral that 3GW starts. 4GW doctrines strike at the enemy’s perceived ability to continue fighting. Scorched earth is an example of 4GW in that even before an invader feels the pinch of not being able to provide for themselves from conquered territory (even if alternative supply can be arranged) they begin to feel unable to continue the fight in the face of such destruction and resolution.

 5GW is even more subtle, it’s activity goes below perception into the context of conflict. What a target observes is manipulated in order to cause the target to react in a specific and completely natural manner.

 Each of these Generations is, in effect, a dislocation of the previous Generation (X-1). The doctrines that fit into each of these Generations may exist concurrently with each other. A 5GW campaign may contain battles fought with 4GW, 3GW and 2GW doctrines and contain engagements of Generations 0, 1, 2, 3, and 4. This is a strength of XGW.

Red Herrings Note: Important follow-up to this post – Triangulating Clauswitz and Boyd by Curtis Gale Weeks.

Another Book on the 5GW Shelf: Daemon by Leinad Zeraus

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

There have been other works of fiction discussed in 5GW circles that, to some extent or in some part, contain elements that could be used as examples of Fifth Generation Warfare theory. Ender’s Game and other books of the ‘Enderverse’ come to mind. Daemon by Leinad Zeraus, however, doesn’t just contain elements of 5GW thought; it is a book that embodies nearly every aspect of a 5GW conflict.

  All of the elements of Fifth Generation Warfare are here. The Daemon controls a highly distributed organization that works by proxy and in secret. Even when its targets know the Daemon exists and is attacking them they themselves are forced to keep its existence secret. The Daemon uses the rule-sets of its opponents against themselves so that when they attempt to respond to it they are doing exactly what the Daemon wants them to do. The Daemon’s proxies resemble everything from multi-national corporations to Global Guerillas and are sometimes, willing, sometimes unwilling and very often unaware.

 For 5GW thinkers this is a great opportunity to see some 5GW thinking in (if only fictional) action. Truly, a must have for the 5GW bookshelf. There are that many lessons to be learned, and examples to be illustrated upon. For those who are not 5GW thinkers, this is just, plainly put, a really excellent book. One of the best reads I’ve had in a long time.

The Dark Lantern

Originally published 4/22/08 at Dreaming 5GW.

 Just a quick note to share an interesting term I ran across that might be a catchy title for Fifth Generation Warfare actors or organizations. 

Dark Lantern: A lantern with an opening, which may be
      closed to conceal the light.

Fraser shifted a bit in his library chair. “Dr. Mallory, my Bureau exists to destroy conspiracies. We are not without experience. We are not without our resources. We will not be trumped by some shabby clique of dark-lanternists. We mean to have the lot of these plotters, branch and root, and we will do it sooner, sir, if you are frank with me, and tell me all you know.” 

From The Difference Engine by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling

The term ‘dark-lanternist’ literally means somebody who moves around after dark with a lantern that is specifically designed to have its light concealed. Consequently, it has come to be synonymous with plotters and conspirators who wish to keep their presence well-hidden, something that seems eminently well-suited to the world of 5GW.

Proto-5GW Manipulation May Not Necessarily be Done in Secret

Originally published 4/21/08 at Dreaming 5GW.

It may, in fact, be quite visible.

 For example:

 “We were fourtunate that we were able to seed it. And a few places kept picking it up and wondering if it was real, was it fake? And then I think we had a little ‘Ah-Ha’ moment and said, could we keep this going. Could we extend the life of a viral video and make the McCain Girls a story rather than a one-hit-wonder.”

Sarah Bernard

President of 23/6

While a Fifth Generation Warfare campaign may itself be shrouded in misdirection and secrecy, the lessons, theories, practices and elements that inform its development may be completely transparent and available for study by an actor who grasps the implications.

10 Reasons Why Elections are the Perfect Test Bed for 5GW

Originally published 2/7/08 at Dreaming 5GW.

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.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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.


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


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

Nuts and Bolts 2

Originally published 2/6/08 at Dreaming 5GW.

addendum to Nuts and Bolts

 Memetic Warfare

Another manipulative tactic or strategy of Fifth Generation Warfare, and something that I see as a core element of 5GW theory, is the controlled introduction of specifically tailored memes into systems in order to achieve a specific effect or consilience of affects. This viral spread of thoughts and ideas can be very powerful in influencing behavior and if successfully attached to powerful memeplexes (or groups of memes) can piggyback on their successes and possibly even hijack and redirect them.

Nuts and Bolts

Originally published 1/3/08 at Dreaming 5GW.

Recent discussion on the mechanisms for the manipulations of Fifth Generation Warfare has prompted me to think specifically about how 5GW would work in an operational context. In short, thinking about the ‘nuts and bolts’. I currently envision two main types of 5GW attacks. I am not willing to limit 5GW to these two methods but they present a good starting point for a conversation on putting 5GW into practice.


Black Swan 5GW:


If you haven’t read Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s excellent book The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, (my review here) you should, it is required reading for 5GW theory. In short a Black Swan is an event that invalidates a system.  By definition it is something that you are unprepared for. Black Swan 5GW is used to invalidate systems and rule-sets. Ideally to my mind, the 5GW organization would be able to replace the invalidated system with a new system that achieves its objective, but there may be other reasons for invalidating a system or rule-set. Perhaps a competing rule-set offers better opportunity for 5GW manipulation or perhaps the situation is such that an existing system or rule-set is an impediment to a desirable though painful improvement.  Potentially a 5GW organization may prepare for Gray Swans, events that are possible though unpredictable and/or unlikely, yet present opportunity to establish a new system. An example of this might include some sort of natural disaster.


Stimulus / Response 5GW (Automaticity 5GW)


The second type of 5GW sometimes works in conjunction with the first in order to strengthen or reinforce a newly created system. In this type of 5GW, the 5GW organization intentionally triggers a specific rule-set in order to create a specific response. A good example of this is a fire-alarm. When you trigger a fire alarm at an office building typically the local fire department responds. When you trigger the alarm for a forest fire there is a similar response, but that response is most likely different in scale and may involve different responders from a different geographic area. The 5GW organization may trigger a rule-set  for any number of reasons, but always to provoke a specific response. It may be to desensitize responders or observers. It may be to decrease the resources and abilities of responders through attrition or (hat tip: TDAXP) cognitive load. It may also be to increase experience in certain situations and thereby increase resiliency versus a competing system or rule-set, or to introduce subtle change into behaviors in certain situations.


As I stated before, I’m not willing to limit 5GW to these two methods of action. 5GW is far too new and complex for that. However, I do see them as core elements of 5GW action . Additionally I would like to note that in isolation I don’t believe either of these methods can be considered a 5GW campaign. A true 5GW campaign would likely entail a great many instances of each of these methods of attack directed at several targets. It is only in the larger scope that the pattern would begin to emerge and the goal of the 5GW organization would be achieved.

Theoretical 5GW Operation: The Pre-Election Hostage Situation

Originally published on 12/1/07 at Dreaming 5GW.

While the candidate him or herself may not necessarily have anything to do with the operation, the better prepared the candidate is to handle the MSM attention and steer the fallout effects the more the candidate will benefit.

The operation may be designed to be as spectacular as possible in order to ensure the greatest possible amount of attention from the MSM. This may involve multiple hostage takers, multiple and possibly simultaneous hostage situations, even acts that will be immediately and repeatedly replayed by the media in order to maximize the visual aspects.

An organization that attempts such an operation is necessarily looking at each of the direct participants; hostage takers, hostages, MSM, emergency / law enforcement personnel and bystanders, as pawns on a chessboard. Even if great care is taken to minimize the risk of injury to any of these parties, there is still the very real possibility that people will be injured or killed in the process.

The hostage takers and any organizations that recruit or support them will need to be very well insulated from the 5GW organization in order to maintain secrecy and deniability. Attacks on candidates and their organizations are not taken lightly. Investigation will be exhaustive and agencies with powerful resources will be involved.

I will admit envisioning the most lurid details of this operation including the movie script situation of the candidate himself or herself personally contacting the hostage takers and brokering the release of the hostages to great media acclaim. I even speculated on how the hostage takers might extract themselves from the situation in order to maintain their anonymity and escape law enforcement or their theatrical demise before the combined attention of the media leaving nothing but questions and incomplete answers. The essential fact remains that any organization that believes the ends justify the means could find utility in this theoretical situation.

XGW: Left of Boom – Right of Boom

Originally published 10/21/07 at Dreaming 5GW.

A New Point of View on the Relationship Between Kinetic Action and XGW.


The Generations of Warfare model is most often viewed as a progression. The term ‘generation’ itself reinforces this, implying the process of one leading to another. As a result, many of the concepts we have studied in our explorations of 5GW in particular, and XGW in general, have their roots in this step-like or ladder-like point of view. A prime example is the consideration that each successive generation is specifically designed to circumvent the relative strength of the immediately previous generation. Another example of progression is the observation that the higher the generation of warfare used by an organization, the more generally dispersed the kinetic activity will be. This point of view contains a great deal of merit and shows consistent results and patterns that help theorists grasp the underlying truths the model contains. However, there are other ways to view XGW that can offer valuable insight.


A New Point of View:


Imagine a continuum in the form of a timeline. In the center of the timeline is a fixed point that represents kinetic action, or the ‘Boom’. To the left of the Boom are events that influence the kinetic action. To the right of the Boom are events that are influenced by the kinetic action. When the operative actions, or the actions that embody the distinctions between each generation of XGW, are placed on the timeline relative to the Boom a very interesting and somewhat striking pattern seems to emerge.

 The Operative Actions of XGW


1GW Operative Action: Organization and concentration of mass to move toward or from key points on the field of battle.


Hannibal to Napoleon, the great captains of history knew the key to victory lay in attacking into and from, or holding, the key points of the battlefield. To do this most effectively, they organized their army, and the force represented by its mass, in order to most effectively and efficiently accomplish this. The organization and placement of mass in 1GW puts it just to the left of Boom on the continuum.



2GW Operative Action: Destruction of an opponent’s mass in order to weaken the opponent to the point that resistance is impossible.


As the “King of the Battlefield” artillery ruled the muddy trenches of World War 1, just as air power shattered any resistance inside the “Kill Box” of the First Gulf War, and with the “Shock and Awe” of the Second Gulf War. Both are examples of the 2GW effort to cause enough direct attrition of enemy forces that the opponent is unable to organize and concentrate its mass, becoming unable to effectively resist. However, without the kinetic action the attrition does not occur. This places 2GW just to the right of the Boom.



3GW and 4GW seem to represent a somewhat murky stage where the transition of actual kinetic action to the threat or implied threat of kinetic action causes room to question their placement on the timeline.



3GW Operative Action: Dislocation of the opponent by attacking and defending critical vulnerabilities.


When an opponent is dislocated positionally, functionally, morally or temporally, the opponent loses the ability to oppose effectively, this is the essence of 3GW/Manuever warfare. In relation to kinetics, however, does 3GW move to fight or fight to move? This question has a direct bearing on the placement of 3GW relative to the Boom. While ‘a boom’ may occur before the movement occurs, the dislocative aspect of the movement prior to ‘the Boom’ (or the overwhelming threat of the Boom on a critical vulnerability of the opponent), places 3GW on the timeline farther to the left of both the Boom and 1GW.



4GW Operative Action: Using a disruptive attack or threat of disruptive attack to cause the perception of an unwinnable situation in an opponent, resulting in a loss of morale or will until the opponent is rendered incapacitated.


Even more than 3GW, 4GW employs a threat of kinetic action more than actual kinetic action. At first glance it may seem that the threat of attack always precedes the Boom. However, without the Boom or the perceived threat of the Boom there is no effective attack on the will of the opponent. This places the operative action of 4GW on the continuum farther to the right than the Boom and 2GW.



5GW Operative Action: Manipulation and influence in order to define and shape outcomes and effects.


5GW embodies an overwhelming focus on positional manipulation and shaping of the battlefield so that when kinetic action or the threat of kinetic action occurs the outcome is essentially predetermined. The opponent is, as a result,  without resistance because the response is by the target’s own choice or follows a previously established pattern that is familiar to the target. This places 5GW far to the left of 3GW, 1GW and the Boom on the timeline.


The result of placement on the timeline looks something like this:







The XGW operative actions that take place on the left of the timeline relative to the Boom are positional in nature. Their intent, even if only occurring immediately prior to the kinetic action, is to cause the Boom to best shape the result and accomplish the objective. Operative actions to the right of the kinetic action use the kinetic action itself as leverage or to motivate an opponent. The pattern represented by the arrangement of each generation’s operative action seems to imply an interesting clue to the potential shape of 6GW and other future generations of XGW beyond 6GW.



Author’s Note:


The thinking in this article was inspired by a series in  the Washington Post titled Left of Boom. The article chronicles the duel between U.S. Military forces and insurgents on the IED seeded battlefields of Iraq. Tacticians in the U.S. Military have come to look at the explosion of ‘Boom’ of an IED as a point at the center of a timeline with the cat and mouse game of countermeasure, counter-countermeasure, counter-counter-countermeasure occurring to the right of the ‘Boom’. Their effort now is to move the U.S. Military’s focus to the left of the ‘Boom’ and attack the insurgent groups that are planning, improving, manufacturing and emplacing the IEDs. The series is excellent and I highly recommend it.

Fifth Generation Starfish

Originally published 8/13/07 at Dreaming 5GW.

As Thomas L. Friedman describes in The Lexus and the Olive Tree, individuals are ‘super-empowered’ by their access to technology and connectivity, allowing them to act and interact globally. This environment gives them access to an open-source marketplace of ideas and the potential of organizing with others who share their attitudes and ideologies. These organizations may expand knowledge, share music and video, debate obscure topics or act on issues that their members feel strongly about, such as the environment, globalization, religion or politics. With this in mind there is the fascinating possibility for these groups to form and act toward a common goal, possibly becoming practitioners of Fifth Generation Warfare in the context of a decentralized organization.

Imagine a Fifth Generation Starfish, engaging in netwar on a global stage. Imagine an organization that through open-source and parallel design methods incrementally manipulates systems and rule-sets, swarming critical nodes and key decision-makers with multiple, self-organizing attacks that shape responses and influence actions by simultaneously eliminating and offering choices.

Ideology and Doctrine:

The glue that holds together the organization is its ideology and its doctrine. It defines why and how the organization acts, uniting it in common purpose and intent. Members are drawn together because they feel strongly about the purpose of the organization and have a vested interest in it. Fifth Generation Warfare doctrine imposes a long-term planning horizon and a strategic outlook, an ideology married to this sort of mindset has the potential to create powerful and lasting change.

Open-Sources and Circles

The basis of the decentralized organization is a networked collection of individuals who organize themselves into circle, cells or groups. Modern connectivity allows these circles to coalesce from like-minded individuals across the globe, pooling the skills insights and resources of people from many different cultures all united by their common ideology. Members may, in fact, belong to one or more circles, shapers of the organization as their individual skills and resources shape their methods.

Parallel Design

The goals of the individual circles in a starfish organization may be the same, defined by the ideology shared by the members of the organization. The doctrine may also be the same, guided by 5GW thinking. However, the actions of individual circles may be very different, especially if the circles use a parallel design model. The various methods explored through parallel design best capitalize on the available skills and resources of each circle. Members who belong to more than one cell may pass along information and knowledge throughout the network, reinforcing the methods that work and cautioning against methods that have proven unreliable or dangerous or just ineffective. Members may also be moved through the network to places where their skills are in need or may be better utilized.


Starfish organizations offer a different sort of active security. This type of decentralized organization does not offer many targets of consequence and when attacked the loss of an individual arm (or circle) does little lasting harm to the larger organization. The starfish organization makes adjustments in its network and reorganizes, usually becoming more decentralized and consequently more resilient in the process.


Starfish organizations have an inherent secrecy because, in a certain sense, each circle serves as a cutout for every other circle of the organization. Working according to 5GW doctrine this effect is reinforced as each circle organizes its own cutouts, pawns and proxies. Should an operation be traced back to its cell of origin all that is lost is an arm of the starfish, the rest of the organization is unharmed.

Related Reading:

The Lexus and the Olive Tree – Thomas L. Friedman

Networks and Netwars – John Arquilla

The Starfish and the Spider – Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom

Related Links:

Open Space Technology

Super-Empowered Individuals and 5GW: Heads, Tails and Edges

Arherring On 5GW

Super-Empowered Individuals and 5GW: Heads or Tails.

Originally posted on 8/9/07 at Dreaming 5GW.

As globalization economically and socially connects the world , its citizens are paid in the metaphorical ‘coin’ of super-empowerment. However, like a coin, super-empowerment has two sides. You cannot enjoy the benefits of the positive side without the negative flip side. Super-empowerment exploited by the actions of Super-Empowered Angry Men.

On the positive side of the coin is the super-empowerment that defines, for example, the writings of Thomas P. M. Barnett and Thomas L. Friedman. In this sense of the concept, everyone has the potential to be super-empowered. This type of super-empowerment comes from technology and connectivity but essentially from knowledge. Even more precisely, super-empowerment provides the ability to accumulate, disseminate and leverage knowledge. Like a tide that raises all ships, this is the kind of super-empowerment that strengthens societies and creates opportunities. This is expressed as freedom, democracy, capitalism and international trade. I think of this as the empowerment of choice. This positive super-empowerment empowers others.

The opposite side of the coin is often described by the writings and theories of Robert Kaplan and John Robb, and championed by the actions of Angry Men like Osama bin Laden and Timothy McVeigh. Fundamentally speaking, these Super-Empowered Angry Men are no different than other super-empowered individuals. These Angry super-empowered individuals also enjoy the benefits of technology and connectivity, but in their hands it is used to cause disruption and destruction, to harm rather than to help. Super-Empowered Angry Men usually justify their actions by adhering to a veneer of ideology that excuses them from the consequences of their actions. Additionally, they feel a deep disaffect and frustration, and seek to act out by using the leverage of their knowledge in a negative manner. They make themselves more by making others less. This is the Super-Empowerment of fear. Not respect, fear. On the flip side of the coin, super-empowerment may be used to disempower others.

Zenpundit Mark Safranski recently featured an article on super-empowerment, rich with links to Fifth Generation Warfare sources. The article itself, however, contained only one mention of 5GW, a quote from Thomas X. Hammes.

“In fact, we may have seen the first of 5GW in the anthrax and ricin attacks on Capitol Hill. To date, neither has been solved. Apparently a small group, perhaps an individual, decided to take on the power of the United States.”

– Colonel T.X. Hammes, The Sling and the Stone

At the time Hammes wrote this, before the birth of D5GW or much of the other Fifth Generation Warfare thinking now available, his statement was as valid as any other. While I do not consider this as a possible Fifth Generation Warfare scenario, I do see it as the potential work of Super-Empowered Angry Men. That in mind, when I asked Mark Safranski how he felt about the relationship between super-empowered individuals and 5GW, Mark responded with this:

“IMHO, SEI are/will be a facet of 5GW, though what proportion of 5GW they may represent is unknown.

I suppose a case can be made, William Lind might make it, that they are the culmination of 4GW’s devolution of power to the lowest common denominator. I disagree. Once you reach the level of an individual or even a very small group, much of the importance of the moral level of warfare and legitimacy becomes completely irrelevant. Most SEI’s will not or would not intend to survive the cataclysms they wish to set off.”

To me, this perfectly highlights the problem that I have been wrestling with. How do super-empowered individuals, or Super-Empowered Angry Men, represent Fifth Generation Warfare? Are they an integral part of the theory, or merely a tangential consideration? What is the relationship between the two?

My conclusion:

Super-empowered individuals are practitioners. Fifth Generation Warfare is a doctrine.

This is how super-empowered individuals relate to Fifth Generation Warfare theory. Super-empowered individuals may choose to follow any doctrine they desire: 4GW, Global Guerillaism, socialism, tribalism, terrorism, anarchism or capitalism. They may apply their leveraged knowledge in the manner that best suits their goals and aspirations. It makes sense that Super-Empowered Angry Men are most likely to choose the most violent and destructive doctrine within their means. I do not think the essential nature of Fifth Generation Warfare with its long-term planning horizon fits that description. For super-empowered individuals with a strategic mindset, 5GW may be an attractive doctrine and super-empowered individuals may prove to be 5GWs most effective practitioners.

Laying the Foundations Part 5: Security Through Obscurity?

Originally published on 8/4/07 at Dreaming 5GW.

What is the nature of the secrecy or invisibility of Fifth Generation Warfare?

I have been thinking lately about the idea that 5GW will be secret, or invisible because it is hard to distinguish what is 5GW and what is not. I have also considered, at length, the concept that a 5GW campaign will function at a strategic level that by nature will also be hard to observe, while operationally and tactically it will appear to be acting at a lower rung on the XGW ladder (if at all). I have seen this type of security described before as security through obscurity. Fundamentally speaking, I am not completely happy with that approach. While it may be effective in most cases security through obscurity is essentially a passive defense. Such passive defense is most similar to camouflage or mimicry and while blending into your surroundings, or resembling something you are not, may be effective at some level once that veil is pierced the organization is no longer able to operate. This is why I feel an active defense is something that should be an essential component of 5GW theory.

How it should work:

Fundamentally speaking the 5GW organization should operate by proxy at every possible opportunity. Ideally, there should also be one or more levels of cutouts between the proxies and 5GW organizations. At every opportunity the 5GW organization should be isolated from its operations with its directives and orders moving through highly specialized and designated channels that, brutally and bluntly speaking, when eliminated will leave nothing but dead ends for anyone seeking to unravel a 5GW campaign.

Why it needs to work this way:

An organization using fifth generation warfare undertakes operations in order to provoke a specific reaction or result. It does this best by influencing the opposing aspects of a situation. In short, it works on the offensive and defensive (perhaps also on the neutral) sides of a conflict and plays all ends against the middle. Remember, the result is the goal of the 5GW organization. To best accomplish this the various sides must never realize that they are being manipulated much less that there is an organization working on both sides of a conflict. They must believe they are acting of their own will. They must believe their responses are in their own best interest and must not realize that interest and the reaction to that interest has been carefully conditioned. Secrecy is essential to reach the most optimum conclusion.

The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable

Originally published on 7/5/07 at Dreaming 5GW.

The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable

“Before the discovery of Australia, people of the Old World were convinced that all swans were white, an unassailable belief as it seemed completely confirmed by empirical evidence. The sighting of the first black swan might have been an interesting surprise for a few ornithologists (and others extremely concerned with the coloring of birds), but that is not where the significance of the story lies. It illustrates a severe limitation to our learning from the observations or experience and the fragility of our knowledge. One single observation can invalidate a general statement derived from millennia of confirmatory sightings of millions of white swans. All you need is one single (and, I am told, quite ugly) black bird.”

The Black Swan deserves a prominent place on the 5G warrior’s bookshelf. The concepts explored by Nassim Nicholas Taleb are the very mechanisms by which a 5GW campaign, as we have explored it, will function. Black Swans strike at the critical vulnerability for which there is no defense because we are not even aware we are vulnerable. As Taleb points out, if on September 10, 2001 it had been reasonably conceivable that terrorists were going to hijack planes and crash them into large buildings the events of September 11, 2001 would be unlikely to have occurred. Identifying these vulnerabilities on the systemic and strategic level is what 5GW is all about.

So, what exactly is a Black Swan event?

“First, it is a outlier, as it lies outside the realm of regular expectations, because nothing in the past can convincingly point to its possibility. Second, it carries extreme impact. Third, in spite of its outlier status, human nature makes us concoct explanations for its occurrence after the fact, making it explainable and predictable.”

Best of all the text flows in an easy, almost conversational manner (I’ll bet Taleb is a really fun guy to hang around with) and the examples are interesting even when exploring really theoretical territory. However, I think this quote sums up the reason to find this book and study it carefully more than any other.

“ Black Swan logic makes what you don’t know far more relevant than what you do know.”

Find out what you don’t know.