Thursday, February 21, 2008

Straw Man

William Lind recently attacked the concept of fifth-generation warfare (the only well-accepted generation of modern warfare he did not first describe) as follows:

Between February 8 and February 14, four American schools suffered attacks by lone gunmen. The most recent, at Northern Illinois University on February 14, saw five killed (plus the gunman) and 16 wounded. Similar attacks have occurred elsewhere, including shopping malls.

Is this war? I don’t think so. Some proponents of “Fifth Generation war,” which they define as actions by “superempowered individuals,” may disagree. But these incidents lack an ingredient I think necessary to war’s definition, namely purpose. In Fourth Generation War, the purpose of warlike acts reaches beyond the state and politics, but actions, including massacres of civilians, are still purposeful. They serve an agenda that reaches beyond individual emotions, an agenda others can and do share and fight for. In contrast, the mental and emotional states that motivate lone gunmen are knowable to them alone.

The whole “Fifth Generation” thesis is faulty, in any case. However small the units that fight wars may become, down to the “superempowered individual,” that shrinkage alone is not enough to mark a new generation.

John Robb, Mark Safranski, and I have criticized Lind's article, noting his straw-man attack on 5GW theory.

Lind has earned sympathy from Shlok Vaidya, however, who has previously described 5GW as "an incoherent amalgam of a variety of perspectives." However, as Shlok's definition ("the emergent pattern formed by a distributed multitude of empowered individuals acting in concert by acting in their own self interest, without any collaboration") argues that 5GW is not competitive-cooperative, his concept of 5GW is not war at all.

07:12 Posted in Doctrine | Permalink | Comments (13) | Tags: William Lind

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


Catholigauze's post about the sad fate of Fort Totten, Washington, DC includes this warning to would-be travelers:

Today the fort is along Fort Totten Drive right near Fort Totten Metro. Things have changed like the farmland giving way to townhouses. A roadside sign and a plaque which is in risk of being grown over by plants mark the site to no one in particular. Though it is a short walk from the metro no tourists come to visit as they have to pass through an area known as “Rapesville” to some. If locals come to visit it is to drink their beers and not take in history. Students at the nearby Catholic University of America expressed no interest or even knowledge of the fort. The fort and its presences on the landscape is marked yet forgotten.

Rape, at least among that tenth of the population that generally does not feel empathy, is likely the result of the following calculation

  • Forcible mating is physically enjoyable

  • Imprisonment is not

Even assuming a functioning criminal justice system, however, one variable predicts the weighting of both these factors: general intelligence. People of low intelligence discount future events more and put a premium and immediate events. In other words, the dumber an unempathetic male is, the more he figures he will enjoy the rape, and the less he figures he will hate the imprisonment.

About half of the variation in intelligence within a culture is explained by genetics. Indeed, as physical and social conditions become more similar, the variation explained by genetics (through both general intelligence and other factors) will increase.

Now that the easy portions of the Gap have been transitioned into the New Core, would-be-Systems-Administrators will increasingly face causes of state failure, violent crime, and general Gappishness that have genetic routes. The more these causes are not addressed, the more the states of the Gap will always be dependent on oversight by the developed states of the Core. As labor from the Core becomes increasingly expensive, Core states will naturally transition from labor-intensive methods of Sysadmin work (such as patrols, invasions, etc) to capital-intensive means (infrastructure development, eugenics, and so on).

This is true whether the Gap we are talking about is on the other side of the world, or just a subway stop away.

Monday, February 18, 2008

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?

Friday, February 01, 2008

Occam's Razor

I don't think it's crazy to say that a more parsimonious explanation for Iran nearly dropping off the face of the internet

Current Index
Response Time (ms)
Packet Loss (%)
China (Shanghai)
India (Mumbai)
Indonesia (Mangole)
Iran (Tehran)
Japan (Tokyo)

is that we're installing the hardware and software to allow us to read every packet going in and out of south-west Asia, and we don't want them to know it.

(Chart from, story courtesy of Slashdot)

Related: New submarine can tap fiber-optic cables (hat-tip AC)
Related: Hackers cut cities' power (hat-tip Sharpr)
Must read: Don't Forget by Mike Tanji

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Identity, who needs it?

My good blog-friend Isaac (who I had the wonderful pleasure of meeting at Boyd '07 at Quantico) sent me "Fighting Identity: Why We Are Losing Our Wars" by Micahel Vlahos. Don't worry Isaac: I won't hold it against you. ;-)

Vlahos' article essentially is an abridgment of In the Name of Identity: Violence and the Need to Belong by Amin Maalouf. Violence is seen as an outgrowth of Identity, a non-defined term that is a hidden hand in human relationships. While neither Maalouf nor Vlahos bother to defnie their term, the term "identity" is typically used in one of two ways:

  1. metacognitive awareness of one's own preference schedule

  2. an in-group/out-group marker

This raises the question: Does America need an identity?

By the first definition, not really. Maybe, but it's not going to happen, and if it did it might not be good. Hence the importance of 5GW.

By the second definition, sure. That's why we bother have passports and visas.

The rest of the article is a mish-mash of other European fads, including a belief in the state as a monopolizer of force, the view that globalization is essentailly a destructice force, and other boobytraps for the mind.

16:06 Posted in Doctrine | Permalink | Comments (9) | Tags: identity

Monday, December 03, 2007

Fierceness, Variations, and the utility of these concepts

Maximum, S. (2007). Arrows in the eagle's claw -- Chapter II, about 4GW analysis. Fabius Maximus. December 3, 2007. Available online: (from Defense and the National Interest).

Fabius Maximus (who kindly has me on his blogroll) calls for two conflicting goals in his recent post on 4GW analysis: first, he wants scientific progress on 4GW theory, and second, he wants fierce non-academic debate.

In parts of his article, Fabius appears to want a smack down brawl, a decline of community friendships, and a decrease in collaboration:

These things might result from 4GW analysis becoming over-collaborative, too congenial. The rapid development of the sciences results from the open clashing of views, often with fierce criticism between those of different views. The 4GW literature contains little of this.

Yet in other parts, Fabius holds high the banner of science as a cure for ills:

It is difficult to accurately describe a literature as large and diverse as that discussing 4GW. That being said, it seems to display some characteristics suggesting exhaustion or sterility. 4GW is a theoretical concept, only useful to the extent it generates insights for practitioners of statecraft, war, and intelligence. Otherwise it is either a hobby or an academic pursuit. The following are tendencies that seem to be appearing more frequently in discussions of 4GW.

Perhaps I am reading too much on Fabius' words, but it seems he is calling for the development of a full-fledged field with thousands of employees and hangers-on.

If Fabius wants science to study 4GW, as some do and others do not, then we need a 4GW paradigm to guide us. This requires, among other things

a) variation to study
b) an agreement on what such a good study would look like

Such a scientific/academic program will generate significant differences between group means, practical effect sizes, and eventually links to other academic literatures. While certainly there should be disagreements, even strong disagreements, collegiality is a must if the community doesn't fracture into incommesurable factions that just talk past each other.

Fabius also calls for useful tools to be deployed to warfighters. This is the role of an educator. It requires, among other things

a) rhetoric
b) practical experience

While scientifically/academically, xGW theory would be grown through studies analyzing variance, educationally/practically it would be spread through writing quality and utility.

These are both good goals. But Fabius appears to jump between them, attacking and embracing them in kind. Fabius should choose between his goals, or acknowledge that both are desired. Otherwise, it is hard to know what he means.

06:35 Posted in Doctrine | Permalink | Comments (4) | Tags: fabius maximus, 4gw

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

End Genocide

The year is 1500. The continent smells of death. The majority of the population is kept enslaved, though that term is used for only some of the victims. The common people, that ragged mass, work for nobles who either stole the land or had it granted to them from another thief. Food is not abundant. The average diet produces a form of walking starvation, allowing these "children of God" enough energy to labor in the farms and the mines, if not enough to reproduce. Indeed, somewhere around 80% of this population will leave no trace in our world, their genetic material snuffed out through violence, disease, pestilence, or the absence of conditions that would have allowed them to give birth to children who do not die in infancy.

In short, Europe sucked. The rest of the world did, too.

Read more ...

10:42 Posted in Doctrine | Permalink | Comments (2) | Tags: genocide

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

10 Questions on Torture (Guest Post by Eddie of Hidden Unities)

[tdaxp note: My thanks to Eddie of Hidden Unities for accepting an opportunity to guest blog on this site. Eddie's introduction immediately follows this note. Below the fold you will find his 10 Questions on Torture.]

Due to my past writings on the subject, I can’t and wouldn’t want to hide the fact that I view waterboarding as torture. Further, Pres. Bush and those in his administration, the military and the intelligence community who engaged in the illegal authorization and implementation of enhanced interrogation techniques, torture, whatever you want to call it, are clearly war criminals. No official is above and beyond the Constitution, no one can claim the law does not apply to them and in particular, the American government has no business ever denying the most basic of Constitutional rights to American citizens (Jose Padilla), no matter how heinous their supposed crimes. Such actions weaken the strongest asset we have as a nation and civilization; namely our superior legal system and traditions. That’s the real reason why we’re so successful as a society in business, education and the opportunity to pursue and achieve a better life.

Nevertheless, unlike the President and his advisers, I can place my personal feelings aside for the good of the nation and suggest a course of action that can resolve much of this contentious issue.

The debate over enhanced interrogation techniques has continued in a variety of forums, of which the Small Wars Journal is certainly not a latecomer to. Malcolm Nance, a highly experienced SERE school master instructor, weighed in with a powerfully descriptive yet overly emotional and sentimental post on the SWJ blog. The sheer gravitas of his professional experience made certain that his opinion would be widely read and discussed in the blogosphere, with everyone from Dan of TDAXP to Abu Muqawama commenting.

Yet emotions, opinions and feelings must stay out of this debate. Nothing less than the future of our rule of law rests on our ability to view this dangerous world we live in as dispassionately and factually as possible. That means the information must be made available to make the hard calls on the issue and not be based on ideological rants from a minuscule minority of lawyers (John Yoo, David Addington) or the Pollyannaish views of another minority who believe that terrorists are little different from enemy soldiers in their tactics and grand strategy.

Educated and informed members of our civil society must ask a momentous series of questions of our lead practitioners and experts with vast experience in counter-terrorism, Constitutional law, law enforcement, intelligence-gathering, interrogation and warfare.

Such a gathering of the minds could occur under a commission brought to order by the President-elect in November 2008. They would be tasked with surveying all the evidence, facts and informed testimony available about the usage of enhanced interrogation techniques throughout modern history to include the post 9/11 era.

My suggestions for the co-chairs of the commission are none other than Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, to include additional representation from Sen. John Warner and Sen. Bob Kerrey, two retired four-star military officers, two retired senior intelligence officials, two former heads of the NCIS and Army CID as well as former FBI director Louis Freeh and two highly respected Constitutional scholars.

They would first need to answer a qualifying question that would prevent needless research and wasted time:

Until the past presidential term, were any of the enhanced interrogation tactics currently utilized by the USG considered torture by a serious majority of criminal prosecutors, lawmakers and historians?

After disqualifying any tactics that are clearly legal though perhaps counterproductive or just politically incorrect, they would need to determine the answers to the 10 pressing questions the use of enhanced interrogation techniques has brought to the fore:

Read more ...

12:24 Posted in Doctrine | Permalink | Comments (8) | Tags: torture

Monday, October 29, 2007

My opinion is fact, period: On rhetoric, waterboarding, and torture

Upfront: Malcom Nance's bio is incredible. Whatever else is the case, he clearly knows what he is talking about. My criticism is not against his knowledge, but rather the way he presents his argument in "Waterboarding is torture... period," an article posted in the Small Wars Journal. For instance:

Yet, once captive I believe that the better angels of our nature and our nation’s core values would eventually convince any terrorist that they indeed have erred in their murderous ways.

makes no sense as a logical argument. Among other things, it implies either that no unrepentant terrorists have died in US custody or else implies a requirement for infinite life.

Well, that said, of course it is not a logical argument. It's a rhetorical argument. It's meant to sound good and feel good and subvert reason with intuition. Even though Nance's argument is on Small Wars Journal, it thus reads more like a political tract that an objective analysis of a technique.

Nance's three bulleted points likewise work better as bromides than as lemas:

Waterboarding is a torture technique. Period

No logical argument for this is given -- merely it is asserted several times that arguments against it exist.


Waterboarding is not a simulation.

What follows is a semantic distinction between two virtual phenomenons: the simulated nd the controlled. I'm not sure how such a distinction is relevent, nor does Nance provide any cypher to help those who are not initiated.


If you support the use of waterboarding on enemy captives, you support the use of that torture on any future American captives.

This is an empirical question and probably demonstrably false, as the set of survey respondents who who support waterboarding on enemy captives is probably distinct from those that support such a technique on "any future American captives." But again, in fairness to Nance, reason, logic, and facts do not concern his claim: Only the sound of the words does.

Alternatively, one might interpret Nance to be saying that we should seek a policy of reciprocity with regards to treatment of detainees with al Qaeda. However, he appears to reject this notion:

We must now double our efforts to prepare for its inevitable and uncontrolled use of by our future enemies.

I have no idea why criticisms of torture are so poor. My guess is that those who get the public ear achieve resonance on something other than logical validity of argument, while others have a hard time translating their first hand knowledge into such an argument.

(Many thanks to Eddie of Hidden Unities for passing on this link.)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Gravity, Dimensions, and xGW

Curtis's latest post on 5GW is just brilliant. Take this section, which may be partial summarized by saying "The tug of gravity weakens expotential with the addition of each new dimension through which it may propogate":

4GW defeats 3GW because of even more mobility: including even the option of moving among civilians or, indeed, among friendly forces. Additionally, 4GW begins to make better use of memetic engineering, or of altering observations to create kinetic responses in individuals thus oriented, kinetic responses possibly quite far from the 3GW force’s field of battle: another degree of dispersal of kinetics. The CoGs may include the morale of the population supporting the 3GW force; the CoGs may include destruction and murder within civilian populations, at any point civilians can be found.

5GW defeats 4GW by refining memetic engineering, mulitplying domains to be shaped, and thus operating outside the scope of the 4GW observational range. Changes which occur within an agricultural sector in a far removed nation-state (or T.A.Z.4 ) may ultimately lead to effects within the 4GW force’s acknowledged field of battle5 ; etc. Indeed, the 4GW force’s concept of the field of battle may be altered.

In each of these cases, the reason the previous generation fails against the newest generation is simply that the previous generational strategies cannot account for the new dimensions of the conflict, or were not formed to address the new dimensions. Rather, the previous generational strategies were formed to address the dimensions of the generation before, with no leap-frogging to x+2: When the goal is to win and the present exigencies are pressing, the need is only to be one-up, and resources will be targeted accordingly.

If there's ever a book that compiles the best posts on 5GW/Generations of War (which there should be), Curtis's latest post would need to be in it.

Read "X vs X: Boom and the Generations in Conflict" now.

20:35 Posted in Doctrine | Permalink | Comments (1) | Tags: 5gw

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