Boundaries for the Fourth Generation

To see the beginning of the 5th Generation Warfare watershed we need to define the boundaries of the 4th Generation. Although there are specific cataclysmic events that mark the transition into a new generation, there are several elements of these events that remain true, even in today’s battlefields and training grounds. Mr. Lind dedicates a section of his paper, “The Changing Face of War: Into the Fourth Generation”, to show how each generation utilizes elements from the past and discards those deemed less effective. In the section, “Elements that Carry Over”, Mr. Lind states:

“Earlier generational shifts, especially the shift from the second to the third generation, were marked by growing emphasis on several central ideas. Four of these seem likely to carry over into the fourth generation, and indeed to expand their influence.”

The four areas that Mr. Lind cites as carrying over are:

  1. Utilizing Mission Orders
  2. Decreasing dependence on centralized logistics
  3. Increasing emphasis on maneuver
  4. Collapsing the enemy internally rather than from physical destruction

While it is true that all wars waged by formal states rely heavily on structure utilizing mission orders, centralized logistics, formal maneuvers, and to some extent forcing an internal collapse of the opposition, this fourth area wasn’t truly effective until the 4th Generational Warfare watershed. I submit that this one area, or element, is becoming a very integral part of today’s informal state sponsored wars. And it was honed during the end of the 4th Generation and has displayed a dialectically qualitative change to mark the beginning of the 5th Generation.

Let’s provide an overview of the generational warfare watersheds, using the fourth element as the catalyst that marks the entry into the 4th Generation:

  • 1GW :: 1648 to 1918 - smoothbore musket, line and column formations
  • 2GW :: 1918 to 1940 - rifled musket, machine gun, indirect fire and movement
  • 3GW :: 1940 to 1970 - tanks, blitzkrieg, AC-130, maneuverable agile forces
  • 4GW :: 1970 to 2003 - collapse the enemy internally

I believe that the end of the 3rd Generation Warfare watershed was around 1970 when the North Vietnamese first utilized one element or weapon in a new and highly effective manner. This element is the defining moment that marks a significant change in how warfare is prosecuted and signaled the beginning of a more powerful tool marking entry into the 5th Generation. Let me use an example from the 4th Generation to make my point, remembering that this element also carries over to today’s battlefield in a new way. Again, this is only one element or weapon of several that mark the beginning and the end of the 4th Generational Warfare watershed.

In my last post I detailed one of the catalysts that marks the beginning of the 4th Generation watershed. The use of the F-105 and the Shrike missile to destroy the SA-2 missiles supplied to the North Vietnamese by the Russians was a positive turning point in the US Military air campaign. One side effect of the tactics and weapons used to destroy the SA-2 was collateral damage to civilians in local villages. The SA-2, being a rocket loaded with rocket fuel, would explode in an enormous fireball ejecting huge amounts of shrapnel into the surrounding area. The North Vietnamese seized this opportunity, with the help of the Russians, to utilize an old weapon in a new way that was powerful and far reaching. The retooled element that played a pivotal role in the final pullout (defeat) of the US Military was: propaganda.

Propaganda was not new, by any means, in the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th generations. The Russians were very effective utilizing propaganda as a weapon against their enemies and their own people, as well as between their politicians and their military leaders. With the help of the Russians, the North Vietnamese used the media to spin lies that the US Military was purposefully targeting civilians. While this was a lie, the media and all the antiwar protestors (especially Hanoi Jane Fonda) broadcast the lies as fact, or on some occasions an alleged instance (albeit the latter was rare indeed). The successful use of communications and the broadcast media in particular was instrumental, and I posit a huge catalyst, marking the beginning of the 4th Generation Warfare watershed. The fact that images and messages could travel worldwide very quickly, in comparison to say WWII communications, the speed and effectiveness of this lopsided propaganda emasculated the US Military from within - collapse internally - forcing the United States to draw down and finally pull out of Vietnam. And while this incarnation of the use of propaganda is a catalyst triggering a major shift into 4GW, it will take on a new form thereby defining the entry into the 5th Generational Warfare watershed.

The effectiveness of the emasculation of the US Military spread like a plague across the United States. It became commonplace for college students, the media, and politicians to continuously frame the US Military and the United States as being inherently evil, baby killing, corporate raiders, with no compassion and very little regard for the world, the environment, and human beings. The vilification of the United States had begun, and she began to crumble from within under the weight of all the negativism and overt attacks to destroy patriotism. To be a patriot was evil and wrong and unless we became like the USSR, we were doomed to failure. Appeasement began to sweep the country and culminated with the Presidency of Jimmy Carter and the inevitable failure of a man driven by appeasement and lack of fortitude. His orchestration of the failed, and deadly, attempt to rescue the hostages from Iran was clearly a result of the emasculation of a nation - not to mention her military.

Fast forward to 1993 … Laurie nailed it when she said that the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993 was a pivotal moment. Even though it took 10 years to perfect, this new element had it’s humble beginnings on that ill fated day in 1993.

The fall of socialism in the USSR, coupled with the quirky end to the 1st Gulf War, signaled to those out to destroy the United States that there was a simple weakness in these large states just waiting to be exploited. There had not been an attack on US soil since December 7th, 1941, at Pearl Harbor. The Middle East was beginning to form new, non-state sponsored, factions driven to destroy Israel. Since the United States supports Israel, and the population is overwhelmingly non-muslim and thereby infidels, these new factions plotted the second attack on US soil: the attack on the World Trade Center in 1993.

While this attack was unsuccessful in a physically destructive sense, it provides insight into how a burgeoning hate for the United States transformed into an informally coordinated attack. This relatively ad hoc attack had the primary goal of effecting mass destruction within small geographic confines utilizing simple tactics and tools. While communications technology had surged forward at an amazing rate, the architects of the 1993 World Trade Center attack preferred to use only portions of the new technology mixed in with an age old process: person to person communications. With technological advances in listening devices, the attackers knew that as long as they could keep the most secret of information protected, utilizing person to person couriers for written and oral communications, the overall attack would be successful.

The attack was successful in that it gave rise to a new approach of synergizing previously known elements into a central element. This new element, the Neural Attack, would signal the end of the 4th Generation Warfare watershed. The elements that carry forward and later are combined to comprise a Neural Attack are the following:

  • Phone, Satellite, TV, Video, Cellular, Radio, and Internet Communications
  • Courier and Person to Person (written and Oral) Communications
  • Propaganda and Information-based Attacks
  • Stealth Aircraft and FAF Munitions (fire and forget)
  • Integrated Strategic/Tactical Communications Technologies and Protocols (JTIDS/JSTARS, etc)
  • Joint Forces Command Structure and Operations

While the above do not, in any way, enumerate all the elements available, they do constitute a fairly broad list with which a successful Neural Attack can be formed. Once several Neural Attacks are combined to form a Neural Attack Battle Plan, a dialectically qualitative change can be seen. I submit that a battle plan of this type was formed and executed in the 2nd Gulf War, Operation Enduring Freedom, marking the end of the 4th Generation Warfare watershed and propelling us all into 5th Generation Warfare.

With the advent of the Neural Attack, here is the new generational warfare timeline:

1GW to 4GW Timeline

As you can see, from the 2nd Generation to today, each major change has been roughly 30 years apart. While technology plows ahead at amazing rates of change, warfare and the art of war progresses at a relatively even pace. Several questions came to mind while I was preparing this post. And one observation was very unsettling: does everyone think I’ve made this all up and spaced things evenly? But, to truly have a dialectically qualitative change one must be engaged in formal war. The 1st Gulf War was more of a police operation because the US and Coalition forces did NOT push through to the final result, a true war. Once Iraq was moved back into and within her own borders, the US Military began to stand down. Another contributing factor was “The Road to Basra” which proved the US Military’s effectiveness at executing a Neural Attack on a small scale. This also resulted in more propaganda than President George H.W. Bush was ready to endure, thereby giving us a “quirky” end to the 1st Gulf War.

In the next series of posts, I’ll lay out what I see are the elements that comprise a 5GW Neural Attack and Battle Plan that resulted in successfully capturing Baghdad: Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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8 Responses to “Boundaries for the Fourth Generation”

  1. Laurie Says:

    This is way more interesting than I thought it was going to be at first ;) I sent you some geeky stuff today for your perusal.

  2. Fix4RSO Says:

    Hey Laurie!

    Yep, I checked the stuff you sent me. Awesome! I have already reviewed the “role of modeling” PDF file that you sent to me. Very interesting extra info from which to build more posts. It is actually amazing that the US Army has been working to move their “systems” into the future to ensure victory.

    I hope your Christmas went well, and you are still having fun!!! :)

  3. antimedia Says:

    I would contend that the Gulf War was ended with the fall of Baghdad in April 2003.

    Interesting stuff, but I’m hoping you’ll have some suggestions for how we can win this new form of warfare, because we’re not doing so well at it at present.

  4. Fix4RSO Says:


    I think we may be in agreement, although I may have not stated it clearly enough to be obvious. While the fall of Baghdad, the second phase in the 2nd Gulf War after defeating the Taliban in Afghanistan, signals the end of the Gulf War, 5th Generation Warfare goes on … 2003 is just the tip of the 5GW iceberg.

    My next post is set to cover the fall of Baghdad. I’ll be sure to incorporate your observation and make it more clear. I think that your point helps to frame the entire generational warfare shift that marks the beginning of 5GW.

    Thanks for coming by, and keep firing off opinion, question, and contention. The best way to get everything well framed is to consider everything.

    And, THANKS for the trackback from your post!

  5. antimedia Says:

    Here’s my thoughts - although a peace treaty was signed in 1991, hostilities never ended. Right up to the entry into Iraq in March, 2003, American and British overflights were constantly being harrassed by Iraqi radar and missile sites as well as sorties by their “air force”. In effect, the war was ongoing, albeit at a lower level of conflict than the violent and brief engagement known as the Gulf War.

    That’s why I prefer not to refer to the action in 2003 as an invasion. In effect it was a completion of the war that began in 1991.

    I don’t think this has any impact on the demarcation points for your theory of 5th generation warfare, however, because tactics and strategies are constantly being adapted over time and as the enemy reacts to your actions.

  6. Fix 4 RSO » Blog Archive » Yeah, 5GW Means Squat, Right? Says:

    […] Seems the family has a rift We Blew Through 4th Generation Warfare! Boundaries for the Fourth Generation Clues to the 5th: Shorter Chains? […]

  7. Fix 4 RSO » Blog Archive » Good Things Happen, No Reporting, Did They Happen? Says:

    […] Seems the family has a rift We Blew Through 4th Generation Warfare! Boundaries for the Fourth Generation Clues to the 5th: Shorter Chains? Yeah, 5GW Means Squat, Right? […]

  8. Kermit Johnson Says:

    Which generational style of war was utilized by the folks who put thermite in the WTC?

    I ask questions about this stuff, and my patriotism is questioned. I wonder if the patriotism of the firefighters who reported some strange events at WTC should be questioned.

    Kermit Johnson’s last blog post..Questions About 911

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