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Monday, February 18, 20081203354900

I wonder what forms of maneuver Fabius would not classify under surrender?

What is the difference between tactical retreat and maneuver warfare?

Fabius Maximus refuses to answer questions over at ZenPundit stemming from his post "Surrender in Al Anbar province," except for these two paragraphs. The first snarky:

This is not the place for that technical a discussion. Except at absurd level of simplicity. Like tactical advance and holding in place are not tactical retreats. You might read some books about WWII or the Korean War for more about this.

The second deep:

4GWs move through social space like maneuver war moves through space, so there are only incidental overlaps or similarities.

So: how do maneuver warfare, 4GW, retreat, defeat, and surrender relate to each other?


One would think a writer who takes the pseudonym of Fabius Maximus would understand that tactical retreat does not mean defeat, but surrender certainly does.

As far as manuever warfare goes, the name of the game is dislocation. Positionally speaking, if co-opting the Anbaris (who violently opposed us) means they stop attacking us, I would call that a pretty good job of dislocating them. Granted the terms may not be very favorable to us, but apparently the price tag was good enough to make a deal. Eventually, that cost should be shifted to the Iraqi government or a new deal will be worked out. In the meantime the U.S. gets a relatively free hand to fight elsewhere as well as to influence the now less hostile population in Anbar.

"We will either find a way, or make one."

Posted by: Hannibal Barca | Monday, February 18, 2008

I learned a few years ago that debating Fabius Maximus was a waste of time. At first it sounds like an interesting argument, but after a series of strange and nonsensical interactions in which FM refuses to answer specific questions it basically comes down to this: the US can't win Small Wars and any argument that we can is "what they said about Vietnam". Van Creveld said "this" and "I can only hope to rise to the level of Lind" and blah blah blah. And whatever. He's not worth the effort.

Posted by: phil | Monday, February 18, 2008

Since I haven't read the FM post yet, I'm going to do this upside down: answer the question posed by tdaxp first, then go so how my answer comports to the context of FM's post.

Surrender, defeat, and retreat are general terms. Each is used in a context specific to some scoped level of war. e.g. strategic surrender is distinct from tactical surrender.

Not even being close to a GW scholar, I'll take the bait and suggest that maneuver warfare and 3GW are rough synonyms. (And I'd be happy to follow some links that disabuse me of such a lay understanding.)

So maneuver warfare/3GW and 4GW are descriptions of modes -- perhaps harmonics -- of human conflict. Retreat, defeat, and surrender may be present in any level of any mode of war.

Posted by: Moon | Monday, February 18, 2008

Moon...your thinking on Maneuver Warfare-as-3GW is essentially right on.

You are also correct: "Retreat, defeat, and surrender may be present in any level of any mode of war"

Posted by: PurpleSlog | Monday, February 18, 2008

I guess I stand by the gist of what I already commented. I read through the FM post as well as the supplemental thread on zenpundit. FM's comments on the zenpundit thread seemed to dissemble w.r.t. his post and exchanges with Smitten Eagle on his own blog.

But I did have a few flashes clarity on a possible taxonomy of retreat, surrender and defeat: surrender is a subset of defeat, specifically being either voluntary or coerced defeat. Retreat is conceptually orthogonal to defeat: it may or may not precede, coincide, or follow defeat, or bear any other persistent relationship to defeat. I hope this isn't too simplistic:


Posted by: Moon | Monday, February 18, 2008

Last one for the night. I'm not happy with that SAT Verbal answer I gave in my previous. It draws a parallel between surrender and retreat that is unfair to retreat.

Surrender is rarely anything but a capitulation (negative), whereas retreat is net neutral. It certainly can be negative when it is in response to enemy success, but it can often be positive (for the retreater). I'm thinking here of the energetic yielding as framed by Sun Tzu and other eastern martial craftsmen. Yield in space and time while you assess and absorb your opponent's thrust. Exploit what openings he gives you. A specific example being the defensive secondary in football. They retreat with the advance of the offensive receivers, and wait to see what mistakes may transpire between quarterback and receiver. A failure to yield/retreat in that case is more dangerous than holding ground.

Enough with my NFL withdrawal symptoms. I'd like to retract any strict mapping between surrender and retreat I may have implied in prior comments.

Posted by: Moon | Monday, February 18, 2008

This conversation has already made me think more on the relationship between Maneuver Warfare and 3GW, so it has been valuable.

Fabius' article reminds me of a recent book [1], which also makes some substantively interesting claims, but has a weaker punch than it could have had because of its adoption of Lindian rhetoric.

[1] http://tdaxp.blogspirit.com/archive/2008/02/12/review-of-if-we-can-keep-it-by-chet-richards.html

Posted by: Dan tdaxp | Tuesday, February 19, 2008

In reading Science Strategy and War, it struck me that Boyd probably wouldn't have liked the Generations of Modern Warfare taxonomy but would rather have preferred XGW without the limitations of the timeline, where the doctrine of the organization defines the Generation more than the year of its occurance. (Though he probably would have given it another term besides 'Generation'.)

He really doesn't explore anything that correllates well with 1GW, but all things being equal 2GW is roughly the same as Attrition warfare, 3GW as Manuever warfare, and 4GW as insurgent warfare (or more specifically with his definition of the Art of Success in Patterns of Conflict).

I've been thinking a great deal about what Boyd would have thought about 5GW and I keep coming back to his definition of The Art of Success from The Strategic Game of ? and ?. I'm working up a post about this for D5GW but I thought it appropriate to mention. I also apologize that I didn't include the definitions but Blogspirit has a way of eating long comments.

Posted by: Arherring | Tuesday, February 19, 2008

It was a good question, but the above comments show why it cannot be debated in a comments section. I apologize for the "snarky" comment (it was a good and highly relevant line, however).

Here is a nice illustration:
"... would understand that tactical retreat does not mean defeat, but surrender certainly does."

That was the *exactly* the point of the two posts under discussion (2400 words!).

We made a tactical retreat in Anbar (contrary to the victory-in-Anbar meme), which changes the strategic situation. In some good ways; some not so good. It is all what we make of it. As I said, apt tactical retreats have won wars in the past.

On a larger note -- Personally I am not overly fond of the 4 generations of war schema, and grow steadily less so. Powerfully illustrating its limitations, Chet Richard's new book describes how 4GW might not be "war" in any meaningful sense. Perhaps we would have been better off following Martin van Creveld's vision, describing this as "non-Trinitarian warfare" -- which suggests a decisive break with the previous "generations" of war.

This is imo clearly seen in Iraq, in which our operations are not anything remotely like maneuver warfare (except that we do drive around a lot). Hence my lack of interest in the question about 3GW and retreats/surrender. It is of historical interest only.

Like so much of Dan's work, however, I found this a thought-provoking question. In what way is 4GW (or whatever we call it) a radical and discontinuous break with 3GW? Richards gives several answers. I mentioned one in the Zenpundit comments: that as maneuver warfare exists in physical space (geographic), 4GW takes place in social space (aka human terrain). Hence the growing role of anthropologists (e.g. Kilcullen) and their work (e.g., in FM 3-24).

This is all worth some thought, as it takes us to the cutting edge of military theory and practice.

So to attempt brief answers to the questions at the end of this post...
1. 3gw is the past, 4gw is the present.
2. Defeat and surrender in 4GW represent a collapse of the will or even the ability to continue the conflict (the latter is one variant of the former).
3. Retreat in 4GW is ... Good question! Here are some guesses. Perhaps movement away from professed objectives? From a higher level of abstraction: actions which on balance move away from strategic objectives?
Trivia note: "Fabius Maximus refuses to answer questions" is deeply absurd. You forgot to submit payment along with the question. Only that guarantees answers! Also, even payment does not guarantee *quality* answers. For that I suggest you contact Martin van Creveld...

(I apologize for the length of this!)

Posted by: Fabius Maximus | Wednesday, February 20, 2008

"In what way is 4GW (or whatever we call it) a radical and discontinuous break with 3GW?"

Here are some of my 4GW/xGW thoughts (http://purpleslog.wordpress.com/2007/10/03/capturing-my-thoughts-state-4gw/):

"4GW should be thought of as a conflict mode where two main things standout: 1) the full spectrum of weapons used includes things not generally though of as weapons and 2) A shift from the importance of the physical dimension of war to the that of the moral and mental (the physical, and the strategic/operational/tactical still matter but they can be trumped by the moral/mental)."


The full breadth and width of 4GW is still unfolding.

A retreat at the tactical|physical levels, can be be a victory at the strategic|operation|moral|mental levels.

As far as Lind's Generations of War framework, I think many folks around this blog have extended it and discarded the dumb parts into a different "xGW" framework to keep it usefull.

Though if we started from scratch we wouldn't use the same terms. Perhaps we would be better off to generate nonsense words to represent 1GW/2GW, 3GW, 4GW, 5GW and start over. Or come of up with a magic box matrix to represent conflict of different K. A type of conflict would have an x,y value instead.

Posted by: PurpleSlog | Thursday, February 21, 2008


Great tie-in to Boyd!

The generations of wars/xGWs probably have emerged, but I imagine the timeline is closer to millions of years rather than three centuries or whatever.


Thanks for the comment! And thank you for the kind words.

I look forward to your review of "If We Can Keep It" a lot.

Why do yo conclude that 3GW is the past?

"movement away from professed objectives..." Hmmm... Much of the accomplishment of Mao's "Democratic Revolution" of the 1940s were undone, purposefully, during the "Socialist Revolution" of the '50s... Does this represent a 4GW retreat, or merely an acceptance that in 4GW, professed objectives might only be tangentially related to actual objectives?

"As far as Lind's Generations of War framework, I think many folks around this blog have extended it and discarded the dumb parts into a different "xGW" framework to keep it usefull."

Brilliant. I think contrasting Lind's Generations of War theory from recent work on xGW is both smart and accurate.

"Perhaps we would be better off to generate nonsense words to represent 1GW/2GW, 3GW, 4GW, 5GW and start over. "

I like this a lot.

Could you take a look at the Jesusism-Paulism series [1], and maybe come up with a short "xGW" vocabulary that replaces the Generations of War stuff?

[1] http://tdaxp.blogspirit.com/archive/2006/03/30/jesusism-paulism-introduction-the-revolution-of-early-christ.html

Posted by: Dan tdaxp | Thursday, February 21, 2008


I would like to start from scratch. I think the 'Generations of Modern Warfare' is inherently flawed. 'XGW' is better because it focuses more upon the actions and intent of the practitioner but still isn't as useful as it could be because of the baggage it carries over from the previous framework.

Although, I don't think you would have to resort to nonsense words. There are perfectly good and valid terms out there. Attrition Warfare and Manuever Warfare for example.

Posted by: Arherring | Thursday, February 21, 2008

We have an interesting convergence of thought here about the 4GW metaphor. This morning I wrote a brief post on this very subject.

Posted by: Fabius Maximus | Thursday, February 21, 2008


One advantage of the xGW program is its tie-in to the OODA model [1]. While Lind describes sequening incorrectly, it does exist, both in local development and evolutionary history of the "generations."


What does this mean? (On your blog, you give a partial list after the definition [2], but it's not clear to me how they tie together):

"In 4GW “retreat” means movement away from objectives expressed in people terms"

[1] http://tdaxp.blogspirit.com/archive/2005/07/18/go-deep-ooda-and-the-rainbow-of-generational-warfare.html
[2] http://fabiusmaximus.wordpress.com/2008/02/21/tdaxp-abcd/#more-147

Posted by: Dan tdaxp | Friday, February 22, 2008


XGW's relationship with the OODA is a prime example of its true utility as a framework and something that the Generations of Modern Warfare lacks. Most of XGWs baggage comes from those who continue to believe that it is the same as the Generations of Modern Warfare and either impose their pre-concieved notions upon it or dismiss it. I think that XGW could be brought even closer to Boydian thought and gain a great deal more credibility and utility.

Posted by: Arherring | Friday, February 22, 2008