Friday, May 8, 2009

A Fifth Generation of War?

Back in January, I responded to a call for chapter put out by Dan at for chapters to include in a volume on 5GW he was editing for Nimble Books.

I turned in my chapter in late April and and the book is slated for release sometime this summer.

My chapter concerns what I believe could be a real life example of a 5GW COIN campaign that was conducted right here in the United States. Below is a brief excerpt from my chapter, entitled The War for Robert Taylor:

Stipulations, Assumptions and a Theoretical Model

One of the barriers to writing about the fifth gradient of war is that there is quit a bit of debate over what exactly constitute each gradient of warfare. So I must begin this chapter by stipulating a few assumptions I am making as I lay out my example of 5GW. Those assumptions include:

1. Warfare is organized violence.

2. Each successive grade of warfare represents a tighter focus of violence (aka kinetics) and a more sophisticated division of labor required to create the kinetics.

3. As a corollary to the point above, as the violence becomes more focused the role of the non-kinetic (aka “everything else) becomes more important in determining the outcome of the conflict.

With those 3 factors in mind, here is a list of the 5 existing grades of war, as I understand them:

0GW: This is genocide. There is not a distinction made between a soldier and a civilian and violence is therefore directed at the whole society. There is no-such- thing as “everything else” – the socio-political-economic factors that come into play in further grades are made irrelevant by the complete and total destruction brought about by an OGW campaign.

1GW: This is warfare waged with a basic professional army. Division of labor now comes into play because there needs to be a some sort of rudimentary economy that allows a percentage of the (usually) young male population to drill and go away to fight a battle. This type of war has been going on since ancient times – think of Sparta or Roman Legions –and the outcome of battle will often be determined by which country has better trained soldiers, NCOs and officers – think Thermopolis.

2GW: This is industrialized war. The outcome will be determined by which belligerent can bring the most firepower to bear the quickest. Division of labor on the home front is now extremely important. The society that wishes to wage such a war must be able to command a large enough industrial base to produce the weapons required and must have a political system which provides for mass mobilization of an entire society. Think about the American Civil War or World War I. This is the first gradient of warfare where the home front arguably becomes more important than the battlefield; because the society that will win is the society that can out produce the other side and not necessarily the side with the best trained or most effective soldiers.

3GW: This is a Blitzkrieg. Borrowing or building on similar technological and economic developments as 2GW (mass industrialization, repeating arms and motor vehicles, for example) 3GW attempts to focus the kinetics onto the enemy’s C2 (command and control) functions. Historical examples include the German invasions of France (1940) and the Soviet Union (1941), Operation Desert Storm (1991) and the initial phase of operation Iraqi Freedom (2003). Winning often dose not depend on having the biggest army but rather on being able to deliver just the right amount of firepower on key targets; cutting key lines and communication and maneuvering to cut off the enemy’s ability to share information and make decisions.

4GW: This is guerilla warfare. A 4GW is like an election with guns. In this form of warfare the socio-economic and political factors are more important than the military factors – a smaller force will often defeat a larger force (see: Vietnam) if the smaller force can better attract followers to the cause. The winner will be the side that gains the support of the people. Violence is as likely to be focused on some militarily significant aim as it is to be used for political theater. For example, in the early stages of the insurgency in Iraq the insurgents would often fire a few mortars at American soldiers knowing that the Americans would fire back and that the American battery would destroy civilian buildings. While victory in a 1,2 or 3 GW is easy to define and has historically often involved a formal peace conference and official recognition of cessation of hostilities by all belligerents (historical examples range from Appomattox to the Congress of Vienna to V.J. Day) a 4GW might end in a much more ambiguous way with one side simply giving up and going home.

5GW: The Battle of Who Could Care Less
“Do you never rest? Fighting the battle for who could care less” –The Ben Folds Five, The Battle for Who Could Care Less

Blogger Dan Abbott has observed that a key component of 5GW would be caring:

“Every other form of modern-warfare requires people to care. The aggressor needs to be able to morally and physically support his military forces for over a period of time — often a long time. The defender, once he realizes he is being attacked, will care about his own survival and fight back.”

In many ways getting an enemy to not care is the essence of what happened in the Robert Taylor between the mid 1980s and mid 90s as the BKs rose to prominence. The gangs needed the city of Chicago to not care that they were operating. This was no Maoist insurgency; the BKs were not really looking for converts or comrades; they just needed enough space to operate freely. Much of what the BKs did, from paying off local elites to tamping down violence at the behest of the police was designed to make potential troublemakers not care just enough to decide that taking on the gang was more trouble than going along. On the flip side, anyone inside any level of government that really wanted to fight the gangs was fighting a battle to get someone to care; get the FBI to care about the racketeering; get the City to care about the conditions inside the projects and get the police to care more about a strong rule of law than a hassle free peace. And once this was accomplished, once the government started caring enough to dump resources into solving the problem, the war was won.

Once the authorities cared, they set off a series of developments that substantially weakened the Black Kings. To explain how that happened, I shall steal another concept from Abbott’s blog posts on 5GW: waterfall development. In a waterfall development model:

“ * Requirements must be known a long time before fighting begins
* Requirements will be rigid and non-adaptable
* Long Time between proposal and victory”

Figure 1

In the 5GW I am describing the insurgents, like all insurgents, draw strength from their environment. Not unlike the way the Viet Cong hid in the jungle and used the natural landscape of Vietnam as a weapon against American soldiers and marines, the Black Kings used their immense store of local knowledge and ability to blend into the environment of Robert Taylor as their primary defense. So the CHA et al defeated them by launching a 5GW against the environment itself. In their grand strategy to destroy the gangs of Chicago, the government turned construction workers, real estate developers and non-prophet organizations into unknowing soldiers in a massive counter insurgency campaign. And when they were finished the insurgents found the environment had been so radically altered that they were unable to reorient themselves and many wound up walking away from insurgency all together.