Jon Henke
Bruce "McQ" McQuain
Dale Franks
Bryan Pick
Billy Hollis
Lance Paddock


Recent Posts
The Ayers Resurrection Tour
Special Friends Get Special Breaks
One Hour
The Hope and Change Express - stalled in the slow lane
Michael Steele New RNC Chairman
Things that make you go "hmmmm"...
Oh yeah, that "rule of law" thing ...
Putting Dollar Signs in Front Of The AGW Hoax
Moving toward a 60 vote majority?
Do As I Say ....
QandO Newsroom

Newsroom Home Page

US News

US National News

International News

Top World New
Iraq News
Mideast Conflict


Blogpulse Daily Highlights
Daypop Top 40 Links


Regional News


News Publications

Evolving into 4th Generation Warfare
Posted by: Jon Henke on Thursday, July 20, 2006

As McQ notes below, the (still very fluid) situation in the Middle East is extremely complex and not conducive to simplistic shows of force — "not all wars are won exclusively through military action". Let me explain the dynamic here a bit further by discussing the strategic problem

It's pretty well accepted—even by their enemies—that Israel has an indisputable convential military advantage. Like the US during the Arms Race era, this means their enemies will absolutely lose any existential war.

But, counter-intuitively, this convential warfare advantage is also a problem for Israel. By precluding conventional warfare, Israel has left the unconventional warfare field wide open, and there — for reasons cultural, moral and political — the enemies of Israel have a distinct advantage. An emphasis on deterring existential war gives a lot of leverage to anybody who can pursue means which cause problems but fall short of existential war.

Hezbollah and similar groups have filled that role. As Cernig points out, "terror groups deliberately fight 'assymetrically'". This is a problem with which "overwhelming military force" is ill-configured to deal.

And it's not just a military disequilibrium. Austin Bay observes that this is "a "dangerous hole" in the [Westphalian nation-state] system" — a gap which our symmetrical response, Westphalian security system cannot fill. Consider the 'grand gesture' that Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora has made to Israel...
Hezbollah has created "a state within a state" in Lebanon and must be disarmed, Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said in remarks published July 20 in Italy's Corriere della Sera newspaper. Siniora also said the Shiite Islamist movement is pursuing the interests of Iran and Syria. The way to disarm Hezbollah is to establish a cease-fire and have Israel release Lebanese prisoners and withdraw from the disputed Chebaa Farms area, he said.
What have the Lebanese — or, really, any of Israel's enemies — given up with this offer? Nothing. Siniora has suggested that Israel make significant concessions after which...what? Israel will be in no position to enforce the disarmament of Hezbollah; nor, really, will Lebanon. But Hezbollah will have achieved numerous objectives. Terrorism works!

Meanwhile, there's no way for Israel to negotiate for similar concessions from the enemies arrayed against it.

3rd Generation Warfare just isn't suited to 4th Generation Warfare. Strategically, the tactical problems of asymmetric warfare may be the least of Israel's concern. Even if Israel wins every battle, how can the war end if you have no entity with which you can negotiate; no entity which can declare the war at an end? Why can't Hezbollah be confronted conventially, with 3rd Generation Warfare? Chet Richards explains, in Reason Magazine...
Because it's not a state. It's more like a tribe. It doesn't have a clearly defined territory. It exercises some of the functions of a typical government, but if it's attacked, it'll just pull back. They've done it before. They're not going to go head to head with Israeli armor. They have some of a state's advantages, because there is a population. Even if they get driven out, that population will probably welcome them back in when the time comes.
It seems to me that the only real solutions left to Israel are to just continue to cope with it, to take existential 3rd Generation warfare to their enemy States (a very bad idea), or to address Hezbollah and similar groups with equivalent 4th Generation Warfare.

Consider: what if a faction of the IDF (Israeli Defense Force) were to split off — unofficially, of course! — and conduct pro-Israeli operations against groups like Hezbollah and (when necessary) other State actors in the region with Israel disclaiming responsibility. When Syria expressed anger over some attack on Hezbollah, Israel could simply toss their hands up and tell the world that Israel has no more control over this renegade group than, say, Syria has over Hezbollah.

Or, to be more precise, Israel has exactly as much control over this group as Syria, et al, have over Hezbollah.

Apart from the 4th Gen Warfare problems this would cause for Israel's enemies, this would remove the marginal advantage that Israel's enemies have in the diplomatic and unconventional arena.
Return to Main Blog Page

Previous Comments to this Post 


I think Israel has glommed on to the Bush Doctrine (refusal to distinguish between terrorists and states that harbor terrorists) and is enforcing it. Israel could, and I firmly believe should, make it abundantly clear to neighbor states that harboring, funding, or ignoring terrorists within their borders is an EXCEPTIONALLY bad idea.

I also firmly believe that Israel will foot a great percentage of the bill for the costs of reconstruction of Lebannon. The destruction and subsequent reconstruction of a large of percentage of Lebannon by Israel will allow Israel to:
1) destroy most of Hezbollah’s ability to terrorize Israel.
2) show neighboring countries that Israel will be a terrifying enemy to have.
3) show neighboring countries that Israel will be a great ally to have.
4) build goodwill with the Lebanese (reconstruction phase).
5) give Israel another ally in the Middle East.
6) geographically isolate Syria from Iran.
Written By: A fine scotch
URL: http://
Uh this whole 4th Generation warfare/non-state actor thing is getting silly. Hezbollah is MADE by the State Westphalian System. 1st it is the FAILURE of Lebanon to corral Hezbollah that gives it its territory to operate. @nd, it is STATE ACTORS THAT MAKE HEZBOLLAH. What would Hezbollah be but a well-organized militia, a la the Michigan Militia were it not for the STATE actors of Iran and Syria. Hezbollah would have no money, no heavy weapons, no land to not operate their non-weapons, were it not for the State system.

Non-state actors are far less of a threat when they have no STATE backing. The Mafia doesn’t bomb the WTC, Khobar Towers, the US Embassies in East Africa, the USS Cole nor destroy the WTC simply because it does not CHOOSE to, it simply can NOT. Al-quaeda has prospered in failed states or in states that acquiesce to it’s agenda, e.g. Somalia, the Sudan, or Afghanistan.

So this 4th Generation war stuff really misses the important role states play in the generation of violence.
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
Jon -

I’m not sure that sponsoring international terrorism in the opposite direction is a great way to rob the enemy of his will to fight. If suddenly Syrian and Iranian civilians were taken hostage, beheaded, etc., I have a feeling that Syria and Iran would be much less averse to raising the stakes than Israel or other Western countries would be.

And that’s the beauty of 4G warfare, as far as the relatively weak are concerned. A proportional response is often exactly what they want (can you imagine if hundreds of missiles were raining down indiscriminately on Lebanon and/or Syria and/or Iran right now?).

The Hizb’allah folks blow up a pizza parlor in your country and disappear into the civilian population. They’re just begging for you to take it out on their civilians, because if you do, you create more sympathizers for their cause even though the probability that your strike is mostly taking out terrorists is pretty low.

This escalates until some imaginary point where the enemy loses his will or capability to hit you back in kind. That imaginary point, moreover, may never come. They may never lose the taste for your blood, and may thank you every time you hit their civilians because you radicalize the populace in their favor.
Joe -

The 4G warfare literature doesn’t miss those points at all. Look it up sometime.
Written By: OrneryWP
URL: http://

Afganistan was barely a state. They had no money or resources. They were the only ones who were backing Bin Laden and look what he did. The IRA was formed in 1919. They survived with minimal support for over 100 years. You are just obsolete, Joe. WWII is over. Its a new century.

The way that 4th generation wars are won is to dry up the population that supports the fighters. If you establish safe and economically viable areas for people to fourish in they really don’t greet the fighters as heros when they return from the fight. If you destroy the physical infrastructure that civilians need to live you just create new recruits.

A prosperous Ireland and Northern Ireland did more to disable the IRA than all of the actions black shirts put togeather.

Written By: cindyb
URL: http://
OrneryWP... I try to stick to Carl Von Clausewitz with dabbles in Mao. They said pretty much all that needs to be said about war. The rest just seems to wander into Toffler and others re-inventing things.... or in the case of Creveld, MISSING THE BOAT ENTIRELY, with his "Reinvention of War" or was it The Transformation of War? I don’t mean that as an attack simply that I’m not too "buzz-wordy" about war...just a died-in-the-wool Conservative about the Classics, the Oldies-But-Goodies.
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
Uh CindyB THE COLLAPSE OF THE SOVIET UNION and the collapse of Oil Prices in the 1980’s ended the IRA, dearie... Oil Prices fell, Libya had less disposable income to spend on supporting Terrorism, the Soviet Union fell and suddenly no more free AK’s and Semtex...
Thank you for trying and please come again.
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
Jon writes;

"Consider: what if a faction of the IDF (Israeli Defense Force) were to split off — unofficially, of course! — and conduct pro-Israeli operations against groups like Hezbollah and (when necessary) other State actors in the region with Israel disclaiming responsibility. When Syria expressed anger over some attack on Hezbollah, Israel could simply toss their hands up and tell the world that Israel has no more control over this renegade group than, say, Syria has over Hezbollah. "

Wasn’t a "faction of the IDF" responsible for the 1970s Palestinian assasinations after Munich?
Written By: Mike
URL: http://
Wasn’t a "faction of the IDF" responsible for the 1970s Palestinian assasinations after Munich?
Uh No it was the Mossad. With the full support of the Cabinet of Israel.
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
I knew there’d be a debate over this 4GW/asymmetrical stuff! Not really a debate, more like organized confusion over the newest buzzwords of military theory.

War according to me: the instruments of war (technology, weapons, communications, etc) change the speed and capacity for destruction, but war is not about the tools. It is about conflict among humans- so the decisive element in the art of warfare will be those who are more adept at coercing the opposite side. This comes from exploiting weaknesses and shattering the will of the other side to resist.

This simple idea does not need complex theorems to exist and justify itself, and doesn’t matter if it’s a ’conventional’ or ’unconventional’ war- another artificial difference. War is conflict that resorts to violence to be settled.

Clausewitz said it: ’War is a continuation of politics by other means’. Famous line, epitomizing the Westphalian tradition, even as it created the mass armies of the 20th century which we seem to be slowly shedding in the 21st. The pivotal word, of course, is ’politics’- what did he mean by that, what do we interpret that as meaning...

I’ve heard it said before and I’ll repeat it here, nothing happening now is new and never happened before. Read Thucydides, Polybius, Tacitus... it’s all the same thing. Now we have fighter jets and overeducated pretention (well, guess we’ve always had that).

The state is not dead, even with the new rise of non-state actors. Interesting to see how things change, but it doesn’t seem to me we, as people, have changed that much (if at all). That’s a fabrication in the spirit of the progressive outlook, it seems to me, but I may be wrong.

Written By: Sunguh
Looks like I’m backing up Joe on this one. Not that there’s anything wrong with that...
Written By: Sunguh
You seem to be missing the point and making some non sequitur arguments. Of course non-State actors like Hezbollah are a product of States. But States and the systems in which they operate are poorly designed to fight against those non-State actors. Their hole in the Westphalian system is the inability to address them effectively.
I’m not sure that sponsoring international terrorism in the opposite direction is a great way to rob the enemy of his will to fight.
No, Israeli terrorism would be a terrible tactic. I didn’t mean to imply that Israeli groups should conduct terrorism, per se, so much as suggest that Israelis can conduct organized resistance without necessarily being official State actors. It might reduce the cost of response for Israel, and reduce the effectiveness of antagonistic attacks by groups like Hezbollah. (and increase the incentive for Syria, et al, to clamp down on these groups, since the fight would not longer be Israel VS the poor, downtrodden Arabs.
I knew there’d be a debate over this 4GW/asymmetrical stuff! Not really a debate, more like organized confusion over the newest buzzwords of military theory.
New? Asymmetrical warfare is as old as the hills. 4th Gen warfare may be a new term, but this is all just picking up where Vietnam, Algeria, Nicaragua and others left off. The State is certainly not dead; they’re just finding new applications for old tricks.
Written By: Jon Henke
I agree that asymmetrical warfare is as old as the hills; others, buying whole-heartedly into the idea of ’People’s War’ as espoused by Mao and like-minded fellows popularized in the 20th century, have convinced themselves somehow that it is a new phenomena. This, in the spirit of their progressive ideals towards overthrowing corrupt orders, such as those of the Capitalist. With the discreditation (although certainly not death) of these ideas following the Cold War, the unstoppable People’s War has undergone revision. It’s clear to most military professionals that ’Small Wars’ are fightable- there is no ’inevitability’ that the insurgents will prevail.

My personal opinion is that 4GW and the latest buzzwords are just people trying to sell books. Doesn’t really contribute much, except as a case study maybe. Unless you think 7GW is better than 6GW... it goes on, and trying to order the ’generations’ of warfare is an abstraction that takes away from the conflict at hand. Tools, tactics- these are important, but not decisive. The conflict is still between men, and students in the art of war will profit mostly from this truth. The successful modern militaries will adjust their organization to maximize their effectiveness and mask their vulnerabilities in accordance with these principles.

This being said, it makes the analysis of the conflict degrading, or as you stated ’evolving into 4GW’, problematic. There is no fundamental difference between 3GW and 4GW, as the groups in conflict have different resources to call upon in pursuit of their goals. Their means of fighting will obviously be different, but it still requires men to want to fight in pursuit of an attainable goal. An effective military offensive will do wonders to shaping the enemies perception that their victory is attainable at all. It’s not zero sum- as in you have to kill x amount of terrorists or disable x terrorist organization; you have to be effective and shape perceptions in line with your goals. That’s a political function admittedly, and yes, there is a big crossover, especially in a religious fundamentalist para-military organization such as Hezbollah.

Maybe I am missing the point though. In a roundabout way, I’m trying to get at the fact that the Israeli’s can put a big hurting on Hezbollah, although to me it’s doubtful that they can stop them without occupation of Lebanon. And even if they do that, they’ll be radical splinter groups and the world will keep going and there’ll still be people dying in the Middle East over religion. Depends on whose goals are more obtainable and has the better organization to attain them- at the moment, all advantages are currently in the Israeli’s favor.
Written By: Sunguh
The Hizb’allah folks blow up a pizza parlor in your country and disappear into the civilian population. They’re just begging for you to take it out on their civilians, because if you do, you create more sympathizers for their cause even though the probability that your strike is mostly taking out terrorists is pretty low.
The whole damm point of going to war is so that you can take it out on their civilians unimpeded by them. Thats where this 4GW assymetry thing falls down. Suicide bombings and unguided missile attacks are inferior ways of defending your or attacking their population. 3GW (or Westernised 4GW) offer better and more effective ways of killing and maiming people and destroying their property.
I didn’t mean to imply that Israeli groups should conduct terrorism, per se, so much as suggest that Israelis can conduct organized resistance without necessarily being official State actors. It might reduce the cost of response for Israel, and reduce the effectiveness of antagonistic attacks by groups like Hezbollah. (and increase the incentive for Syria, et al, to clamp down on these groups, since the fight would not longer be Israel VS the poor, downtrodden Arabs.
Jon the implication you are making (at least to me) is that these non-official Israeli actions would be more effective than the official current military campaign. How so? What sort of non-state action do you envisage?

The only advantage I can percieve is that as non-official actors they would not be explicitly covered by the international conventions on warfare. Therefore they would be able to do all manner of nasty things to the Shia of South Lebanon and Sunni of Gaza that are illegal for Israel to do. This might work if the action is nasty enough - the Romans had few residual problems with the Helvetti.

However this suggestion is not practical because it is illegal. It is not practical because 4GW (Arab style) will require accepting high losses amoung Jewish actors. It is not practical because any Jewish groups acting to attack Arabs will be seen as an action by a Jewish group. And most of all it is not practical because if it is prepared to act illegally Israel can do so much more damage by using its 3GW military.

Agree with Sunguh - Israel can put a much bigger hurting on Hezbollah using its inherently superior military.
Written By: Unaha-closp
URL: http://
I’m joining this a bit late, but as a rule I’m with Unaha-closp and Sunguh here. 3rd Generation warfare is the only viable Israeli tactic. Although I support this for rather different reasons than those stated by Unaha and Sun.

I don’t think Israel has the political pull to accomplish officially non-state sanctioned 4G warfare. As Unaha pointed out, any actions like this are going to be blamed on Israel and the Jewish people as a whole. The UN (for what it’s worth) and the Europeans are going to come down like a load of bricks on Israel for daring to use barbarous and illegal tactics (curiously, though these tactics are OK for Arab nations). Israel cannot survive the political firestorm.

Jon does have a good point here, though about the long-term effectiveness of 3G warfare. Although it is the only viable tactic for Israel, its returns will continue to diminish as military strikes and open warfare are prolonged. Quick, surgical stuff is great, but protracted weeks and months of bombing, raids into Lebanon, etc. will eventually contribute more to the problems than the solutions. I don’t envy the Israelis their position. Although I won’t go so far as to say it’s a no win position, it’s darn near that. They can’t achieve a lasting peace strictly militarily, but politically they can’t engage in 4G warfare. Maybe they can just buy Canada or something and get the heck out of the Middle East. They’d make a lot better neighbors than the current ones we have.
Written By: The Poet Omar
URL: http://
Well gentlemen, I’m actually quite optimistic about this one. It’s really only the Israeli’s who can screw it up. Everything I’ve read leads me to believe they pretty much have a green light for whatever they reasonably need in the next week. The G8, the UN, the Arab League- all seem to be subdued in their reactions somehow. It’s not your normal Israeli invasion, to be sure!

I’m trying to move away from the 3GW/4GW model, it’s more confusing than helpful- just look at the ’Revolution in Military Affairs’ here in the US- more Civil Affairs but you still need them tanks! The fact is that Israel does do some ’unconventional’ warfare in the lands of it’s neighbors. But this attack on Hizbollah doesn’t fit neatly into this 3GW/4GW theory because while they are technically a non-state actor, their military infrastructure- especially the hardened sites and missiles- is mostly the work of antagonistic states; namely Iran and Syria. Mao and the other ’masters’ or proponents of this kind of asymmetric warfare talk about how the final stage of insurgency is moving from hiding among the people to a conventional buildup of this sort. However, it’s also ironically, the most vulnerable stage as well, when you’re going against say, Israel, on their own terms. It’s supposed to be done when they’re demoralized already so they can be defeated.

If they can discredit the forces of militant Islam soundly- confirming that they are a credible threat to anyone daring to mess with them, that’d probably be more strategically valuable than finding all the hidden weapons and Hezbollah personnel in Southern Lebanon. That’s what the fight looks like to me, part of it is posture- they’ve been doing nothing but pulling out for the last couple of years. Maybe Hezbollah and their buddies thought they were getting soft and wouldn’t do anything? Looks like they’ve been disappointed if that is the case. And the rest of the world just might give them some legitimacy too- which is a far riskier proposal in some ways. I don’t know what good I’d feel about an EU/UN stamp of approval, but that’s just me.
Written By: Sunguh
Poet Omar says
They can’t achieve a lasting peace strictly militarily, but politically they can’t engage in 4G warfare.
Practicing (Arab style) 4G warfare would be a step backwards for Israel and is anyways irrelevent to achieving a lasting peace.

Arab style 4G warfare (cutting the heads off prisoners, bombing pizzerias, launching home made rockets at enemy cities) is less capable of disrupting civillian life and hurting the opposition than Israels existing military capability (blockades, artillary barrage, strategic carpet bombing, air seeding of landmines, fuel air explosive, nuclear weapon attack).

Politically it is equally poison to Israels liberal, humanistic credentials to carry out terrorist atrocities or to carry out military atrocities. I do not concede these sort of actions shall be required to achieve lasting peace, but if they are (not that I am suggesting such) they may be much more effectively carried out using the superior military force Israel has.

Hopefully Sunguh is correct and this operation will cripple Hezbollah & Hamas.
Written By: Unaha-closp
URL: http://
That might be too big to expect, the crippling of Hezbollah and Hamas, but there is an opportunity here. Don’t think they’ll resort to Arab 4G, like Unaha was saying- it’d definitely be a step back for them. I do think that Israel could do a lot of good for the region there, but we’ll have to wait and see.
Written By: Sunguh
Hey guys, look I agree with you both. I’m just pointing out that since we are discussing 4th gen possibilities here and that was Jon’s original suggestion, my opinion is that I don’t think Israel has the political strength to handle such tactics.

4th gen of the type you are suggesting (beat the terrorists at their own game) would be a moral outrage to most Israelis and would definitely be a step backward. I don’t think that’s what Jon is suggesting here. I suspect he’s thinking more along the lines of BlackOps type operations. Yes, technically carried out by IDF special forces, but with no paper trail and plausible deniability. Geez, I sound like Brent Scowcroft now.
Written By: The Poet Omar
URL: http://
Jon, I mostly agree with the main of your analysis. I share the skepticism here about the proposed solution - it’s nice to know that you weren’t suggesting Israeli terrorism in response, but that leaves the question - what exactly were you suggesting? What would these Israeli-favoring-supposedly-non-state-actors being doing, I ask, if not actions involving violence targeting Arab civilian populations?

That’s the angle Hizballah has, and Israel can’t share it, for a whole variety of reasons. Hizballah itself only has this option due to a confluence of circumstance - Israel’s military dominance, the former Israeli occupation of Lebanon, the weakness of the Lebanese state and its history of Syrian control, etc etc etc.

Then again, to contradict myself, it’s not out of the question that Israel could have shadowy non-state actors kidnap and kill Arab civilians, or whatever. A lot of people dismissed out of hand by people here argue that Israel pretty much does this already - car bombs, assisinations, kidnappings, etc etc. The shadowy "non-state" actor is called the Mossad. Of course, the Mossad is a state actor - and you could argue that Hizballah is almost a state actor for Iran/Syria. Am I morally equating the Mossad and Hizballah? Maybe not, but there sure is some methodological overlap, and more than that, both state groups use these respective organizations for operations that they can then deny that they were behind. You could argue that the only real difference between what happens now and what you’re talking about is that the Shin Bet would start using front groups with names like Revenge of the Jewish widows and Orphans.

Anyway, and finally, putting morality aside, 4GW by Israel using non-state actors wouldn’t really make much of a difference. Putting aside the negative consequences and costs, it’s just not an effective way to stop guerilla/terrorist warfare until you reach a very, very, intense level of atrocity. When both sides use guerilla warfare/terrorism, neither side can stop the other side tactically: both sides simply bleed each other dry until one civilian population is wiped out or until a truce is negotiated.
For more examples of this ugly little scenario, please see Iraq, 2006.

Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
Holy smokes, Omar. If we both suggested the same thing at about the same time, does that mean we agree?
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
I’m sorry but I don’t see the problem. First of all, I think the difference between 3G/4G is more organizational than some kind of fundamentally different method of warfare. That’s the way I view this, so I’m a little off to start with. Second, Israel is notorious for ’unconventional’ warfare of the ’Brent Snowcroft’ type- not head chopping like we were alluding to earlier, but a very intimate method of retaliation. Some of that is plain BS and some not- but it’s useful to cultivate that image in particular neighborhoods, like say, the Middle East. Conspiracy theory galore, if you know what I mean. They are actually supposed to be quite good at it- are you suggesting it on some kind of larger scale? Because they are generally known to be successful already. The Israeli’s I know of seem to be quite comfortable with this aspect of conflict, don’t know of a pressing problem regarding the lack of political strength for that type of thing. It’s the major invasions, ongoing occupations and airstrikes that cause a political ruckus. Unless, like the present moment, they are being openly provoked for the world to clearly see.

And glasnost, ’for more examples see Iraq 2006’- what should I be looking for? You seem to be describing attrition warfare, like WW1 or something. It might resemble exaggerated media reports claiming the same, but it doesn’t really resemble where I’ve spent the majority of the last year. When referring to a violent insurgency they are generally called ’Small wars’ or ’People’s Wars’ if you prefer the Marxist-Leninist version, and can involve atrocity but aren’t necessarily recommended tactics for getting the populace on your side.
Written By: Sunguh
glasnost since we’re in the business of moral equivalence tonight (or maybe not), let’s throw in the Central lack of Intelligence Agency too to Hezbollah and Mossad. And how about MI6, KGB/GRU, the old Iraqi Secret Police, etc. Are all intelligence agencies a band of murderous outlaw thugs intent on advancing their politics regardless of the civilian cost? Maybe I’ve misunderstood your position here.

Honestly, as much as I admire the Mossad and despise the CIA, I can’t lump them in with Hezbollah. If for no other reason than that Hezbollah exists for the sole purpose of eliminating the Jewish nation state. We can argue tactics and methods all night, but the raison d’etre for most nations’ intelligence and clandestine services is not the elimination of other nations.

As for guerilla v. guerilla (or terrorist) spats see France v. Algeria (1954-62), France v. Spain (1808-1814), Britain v. US (several times), British v. several Southeast Asian nations, etc. One side definitely emerged victorious in all of these situations and none of them resulted in the complete annihilation of civilian populations. None even came close. Is this to say that there weren’t horrific casualties amongst sometimes innocent civilians? Absolutely not, but if we are talking non-conventional v. non-conventional we know it’s going to happen. And for the most part, none of the above were settled by truce either.
Written By: The Poet Omar
URL: http://
Sorry glasnost, just saw your later post. Yeah, on this one, Lol, I think we do agree.
Written By: The Poet Omar
URL: http://
Are all intelligence agencies a band of murderous outlaw thugs intent on advancing their politics regardless of the civilian cost? Maybe I’ve misunderstood your position here.

I think a common thread amongst intelligence agencies is a general indifference to civilian life lost except as such loss affects their tactical and strategic environment, yes. And, again, yes, in this they are more similar to non-state actors such as Hezbollah than, say, the US military, or the American nation as a whole.

But the main point, or one of them, was that non-state guerilla/terrorist groups and intelligence agencies play a similar role for their states - the ability to do nasty things while the nation in question pretends not to be involved.

Personally, the less active either set of organizations are, the better off is the world, if you want my personal opinion - except of course for the specific situations where they seem to be saving lives by ending them - thus the slippery slope and, well, real life.

I’m not familiar with all of your examples, but in the example of France vs. Algeria is bogus - first the the French army was the dominant player, second there was a negotiated peace agreement between the FLN and Mr. DeGaulle.
A situation like what I’m talking about would be if the Alergian settlers had stuck around in Algeria, alienated from the French state after their attempts to overthrow its government by force, and attempted to dirty-fight it out with the FLN. They might have been wiped out, or they might still be fighting Arabs in 2006, or there might have been a truce, but I don’t see any other likely possibilities.

4GW, to the extent it exists, doesn’t work the same when both sides are equal in strength, and/or when neither party is a democracy.

Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
Would it be wise for Israel to embrace the Lebanese position of having a private force that is unaccountable to the state?

Because if it is accountable to the state, it wouldn’t be as effective. Who is going to sign off on the order to bomb a pizzeria?

The whole problem with Hezbullah is due to the failure of Lebanon, the failure of the UN, and the failure of the media.

States should make sure they have the monopoly on the use of violence.

The UN was charged with the border and disarming of Hezbullah. It didn’t do either.

The media seems to cover these events so superficially that you end up with people nodding their heads at the Lebanese PM’s suggestion...gee if only Israel was willing to take its licks, we’d all be spared these horrible news reports.

More media investigation of how Hezbullah hides it rockets among civilians, or what ports / airports they used for shipping in’s weird when some people on other chat boards don’t understand that Hezbullah uses the Beirut Airport, not just poor Swedish tourists.

But again, the main point is that it’s the state’s job to maintain a monopoly on violence and if they cannot do it, then Israel and the UN should do it for them.

Written By: Harun
URL: http://
Glasnost, it seems to me you have never been in the military or even government with your sweeping declaration that intelligence services with their ’general indifference to civilian life lost except as such loss affects their tactical and strategic environment’. Unless, you were in the Soviet intelligence industry- that’s how they worked. That was one of their primary tactics in counterinsurgency, see Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Afghanistan, etc. And your moral equivalency plays are a bit tired.

Your descriptions of 4GW illuminate why it’s such a flimsy theory, because technically those conflicts are textbook cases of 4GW. The weaker leveraging political means to enable a strategic victory while suffering tactical losses consistently. Which I already explained in my point of view above is crap anyways, but whatever.

What am I doing responding to this anyways? Never mind.

Harun’s point is valid though- if states don’t assert their power, sometimes even resorting to draconian methods, these guys will fill the vacuum. Or the theory of negative sovereignty, another state could do the same- just look at Africa. Those countries are all into their neighbors issues.

Although a cursory look at the UN’s performance, snide jokes about prostitution aside, will show that they’re probably not the person to trust with the assertion of state power. It’s the state that will look out for themselves the best.
Written By: Sunguh
Glasnost, again I agree with you here, I must be coming down with something ;) The less involved the black ops guys are, probably the better for all. Clandestine stuff (while in theory meant to minimize the casualties which open warfare would entail) tends to be nasty. Specwar types are meant to break things and kill people. They have no other purpose. I’m not saying that there is no use for them ; quite the contrary. I just think that the less situations we find ourselves in that demand their use, the better.
Written By: The Poet Omar
URL: http://
I confess that I am totally lost here. Is there some site that explains all the various generations of warfare for simpletons such as I?

Regarding having an "unofficial" arm of the Israeli gov’t(Mossad or IDF, it makes no difference) engaging in actions against the various terrorist groups or sponsoring nations, I think the term "plausible deniability"
is applicable here. And there is no plausible circumstance I can think of to explain some non-governmental, totally unaffiliated, pro-Israeli group committing violent acts against enemies of Israel. Perhaps an example would help me understand.

Just out of curiosity, has anyone actually read Clausewitz(?)? I have heard(read, actually, but heard sounds more natural) him quoted repeatedly, but has anyone actually read his book cover to cover? Are there Cliff Notes available?

Written By: timactual
URL: http://
And there is no plausible circumstance I can think of to explain some non-governmental, totally unaffiliated, pro-Israeli group committing violent acts against enemies of Israel. Perhaps an example would help me understand.

They equipped and paid for the South Lebanon Army.

and maybe other Christian Phalangist milities in Lebanon I believe.

Basically, Israel already tried Jon’s idea of outsourcing the dirty work.

Written By: Harun
URL: http://
timactual, yes I have read Clausewitz’ Vom Krieg (On War). Not cover to cover, but enough to get the general picture. I prefer Jomini myself, if we’re strictly sticking to 19th century thinkers.

Just as a side note on Clausewitz, too. To my knowledge, good ole Karl never rose above the rank of Colonel and was never anything but a staff officer. He’s great at synthesizing Napoleonic military-political strategy and he definitely set the stage for ideas on future total war, but he wrote from the perspective of a Prussian staff officer, not a field commander. Jomini, on the other hand, had real frontline experience as a chief of staff and as a commanding general. Additionally, he served with the French, as chief of staff to Marshal Ney, during the more interesting campaigns, and then later with the Allied forces (Russians, I think). His work, although more tactical than strategic IMHO, is the better and more useful of the two for grasping the essentials of Napoleonic thought.
Written By: The Poet Omar
URL: http://

I think that the genius of Clausewitz (yes, timactual, I’ve read "On War") was that he was able to put a theoretical framework over the field practice of mass armies. This allowed the profession of arms to become much more effective, because they could see where their operations deviated from theory, and correct this by training to theory (doctrine). Where prior to the understanding of battlefield friction as a theoretical construct, everyone knew "things go wrong" (curiously, many non-military people have forgotten that these days), after the theoretical understanding, officers were able to figure out how and why things went wrong, and to reduce the number and consequences of things going wrong.

The "problem" with Clausewitz is that his thoughts are only really applicable in the case where two armies fight each other. Many of the conflicts around the world today do not fit that model, but are instead conflicts between an army and an undisciplined, unorganized armed group — just look at Israel v. Hizb’allah right now, where Hizb’allah has no real army to fight, just a bunch of very well armed cells and a sympathetic population to shelter them. For those kinds of situations, the Marines’ Small Wars Manual is a very good practicum. I’m not sure what the right theoretical works for understanding that would be, though I know that reading Boyd and Kaplan would be a good start.

For conflicts between two undisciplined and unorganized armed groups, I recommend Xenophon and Homer.

And timactual, you can read this post for a short primer on the generations of warfare.
Written By: Jeff Medcalf
Jeff, I agree although I think we come to different conclusions here. Clausewitz, to me, personifies the 19th and 20th century Prussian total industrial war mindset. It leaves little room for flexibility and, although stressing the importance of planning and highly efficient professional staff work, it misses some of the basic details of warfare by overcomplicating things. Clausewitz also, as you point out, suffers from Napoleonic decisive battle syndrome. This type of thinking poisoned the mindset of more than one American Civil War and European First World War commander.

To a certain extent, that’s why I prefer Jomini. He writes more of the operational art than the strategic one. Strategy, to a certain extent, will (or should) always trump tactics, but this idea broke down in the trenches of World War I. Had either side possessed great numbers of gifted, non-Clausewitz traditional tacticians, the war would have been over much sooner. I think that’s part of the problem with post-World War II military leaders. Far too many focus on geo-political strategy and the art of theater management (logistics, personnel, political considerations) over simple things like light infantry tactics, battalion level operations, spec war, etc. As a perfect example of this, let me point out William Westmoreland. Westmoreland was a trained artillery officer and later an airborne/airmobile officer. He possessed a 1914-18 mindset and a predisposition toward battles of attrition and grand decisive battles as evidenced by his strategy in Vietnam and his own testimony. He was a technical soldier, a good manager, but a man with no grasp of basic small unit infantry tactics. I suspect he was an avid Clausewitz fan, too.

Good recommendation on Xenophon though. Not sure so about Homer as a serious historical reference, though. For classical warfare, I recommend Victor Davis Hanson.
Written By: The Poet Omar
URL: http://
The implication of Jeff Medcalfs explanatory note is that doing the dirty work is what is required to break a 4GW force. That 4GWs do not work against tyrannies, because tyrannies fight dirty.

The British broke the Boer by killing thousands of them. The British again broke the Chinese Coms in Malaysia by arming the Malays and killing thousands of Chinese villagers. The Soviets suppressed Chechnya by moving 3/4 of the population to the gulag. Does this mean that in order for Israel to beat Hezbollah or Hamas that Israel must decimate the base populations?
Written By: unaha-closp
Unaha-closp, I really hope not, but the examples you provide are telling. In the case of the Boer war, yes the Brits did imprison several thousand Boer farmers and voortrekkers which, ultimately lead to their deaths. In the long run, however, South Africa became a key British ally (even some of the old Boer commando leaders became die hard Unionists, like Smuts and Botha). Malaysia, too, after brutal spec war operations by the SAS, MI6, and who knows what other forces, became a Brit-friendly nation. Chechnya, on the other hand, is more complicated because it isn’t just about politics and nationalism. It’s also about revolt against a foreing occupier who has ruled for centuries, and, to a lesser extent, involves a religious conflict between Russian Orthodox Christians and Chechnyan Muslims. The Russians have always been brutal victors and, instead of empowering and befriend conquered peoples, have, instead, enslaved and assimilated them.

Israel doesn’t have the capacity for any of the above examples, however. And even if they did, I wouldn’t support them employing such tactics against the neighboring Arab nations despite the demonstrated effectiveness.
Written By: The Poet Omar
URL: http://
Von Clausewitz makes sense in the Westphalian tradition of soldiers fighting similarly organized soldiers. In his time he was a genius for countering Napoleonic battles. However, in the vernacular of the present, s*** changes. The Clausewitzian military organization found its apex in the mass armies of the 20th century, even as the weaker ones started to realize they could counter it with limited war. There were weak spots identified in the decisive Westphalian approach of the Great Powers. So they dressed it up in Marxist propaganda, preaching the ’inevitable victory’ of the oppressed over their oppressors, and the result culminates in Mao’s classic Marxist-Leninist text ’On Guerilla Warfare’.

We battle with these disciplines influencing the way we look at war. The problem is theory in the first place. Good to know information, but on a practical level, basically useless. Or at best, good until a better one comes along. So much of the 20th century wasted giving credit to bad philosophy, I feel like a cranky old man b**ching about commies when I complain about these crackpot theories. To me, when I hear it being called asymmetrical warfare, like it’s a new thing, I want to cringe. 4GW even more, because the fundamental assumption is that there is some kind of fundamental change in the nature of warfare- a quick look at their justifications makes me even more convinced ’the 4th generation of ’modern’ warfare’. Starts after Napoleon, evidently- quite an arbitrary point in time to choose to separate modern from ancient. Guns and cannon had been utilized for a few centuries prior, in non-Western countries like the Turks. Is modern warfare really that different from ancient? No. Don’t take my word for it, read Thucydides and you swear it could have happened five years ago- it’s the same s***. Who was the major advocate of these modes of warfare as a new and unassailable phenomena? The Russian military expansion of the 20th century as it was justified by Marxist-Leninist dogma. Now, very interesting as case studies go, but is that who you really want to learn military methods from?

Ideas matter. And historical facts matter. In the case of counterinsurgency, as Unaha states above, and I mention a few comments ago- there is a clear pattern in how the Russians fought, and how they trained others to fight. Rule by violence and atrocity- well documented (Hungary, Czechoslovakia, etc). The British took a different tack, as their method came to be known as the ’iron fist with the velvet glove’, and was evidently much more successful in their long-term. Even with the advent of concentration camps, as evidenced in the Boer War. We Americans have a different historical pattern, clearly more towards the British method, to anyone interested in this I heartily recommend Max Boot’s ’Small Wars’. What will Israel do? Well, it’s tough to say. As mentioned previously, they did try and are actually quite good at some of these other methods- called variously (according to the fashionable ideology of the varying commenters) ’black ops’, ’4GW’, or ’dirty work’, whatever. But they will assuredly use a combination of these methods, based on what they think is most effective and what they can get away with.

Hope that helps someone. Maybe someone’ll come back with more, but this thread might be dead.
Written By: Sunguh
I haven’t read Von Clausewitz (or Thucydides or Sun Tzu for that matter). I did read the Caerdroia post (thanks, Jeff!) which was interesting and informative, but I’m still confused.

The Caerdroia post lists terrorism, attacking civilian populations exclusively, media-centric war, using criminal enterprises as instruments of covert war and the like as typifying 4th Generation warfare. What’s meant by ’terrorism’ here, especially in light of its being separated from ’attacking civilian populations exclusively? The dictionary definition is so vague that it could be applied to practically any strong coercion being applied, regardless of coercer or coercee, so long as the goal is political. Likewise, I would think anybody engaged in clandestine activities such as espionage, reconaissance, or sabotage (all perfectly acceptable 3G warfare as far as I know) would be well-advised to make use of his enemy’s criminal enterprises. Does it only apply to particular criminal enterprises or particular uses? Prostitution, for example,is a criminal enterprise in most countries. Is the tried-and-true classic ’honey trap’ 4G warfare? As far as ’media-centric’ goes, propaganda has been a part of war since the dawn of time. Is it just a matter of degree, or of effectiveness?

Obviously, there are clear differences in the tactics employed by, say, Hamas and the IDF. But they seem to be characterized almost entirely by how each defines and treats the categories of ’civilian’ and ’combatant.’ Hamas doesn’t much distinguish between the two in terms of target selection (beyond preferring softer, easier civilian targets) or making them identifiable in their own population. I can see where a standard army, geared toward smashing an identifiable ’legitimate’ (ie, combatant) enemy, would have difficulty fighting an enemy that’s hard to identify. And where ’kill ’em all let god sort ’em out’ would be the most effective counter-tactic. Still, playing on the enemy’s interest in not hitting civilians may be more effective these days (since more people are watching and seem to care), but it’s not a new thing.

Maybe it all makes perfect sense to military science boffins, but the various ’Generation’ labels don’t seem to be very intuitive.
Written By: Achillea
URL: http://
It doesn’t make perfect sense. It’s hogwash. Nothing new that didn’t happen 3000 years ago.
Written By: Sunguh
It doesn’t make perfect sense. It’s hogwash. Nothing new that didn’t happen 3000 years ago.

Absolutely, 100 percent wrong. 3000 years ago there were no consequences to the "kill them all and let god sort them out" method of warfare. This was, in fact, the norm. And as a result, cohesive political units surviving more than a generation or two, or outliving their first military loss, were unusual. I’m sure counterexamples aplenty exist, but the point stands. One of the clearest early examples of tribes coming to understand the virtues of the less-than-total annihilation strategy to governance and warfare for extending political control beyond the bounds of absolute military ability were the Romans.

3000 years later, wars of extermination are hardly ever fought. Political maps and national boundaries are no longer up for grabs. Most conflict is limited, and nations everywhere are constrained to one or another extent - yes, even the most barbaric of them - by the soft power of world opinion. In the 21’st century global norms of behavior exist, and to defy them is dangerous, as Saddamn Hussein eventually found out, or at the least disadvantageous in subtle ways.

4GW plays is an asymettrical stategy that plays on this state of affairs to provoke stronger military powers into violating global behavioral norms through military actions and therefore emerge with political victory. Hizballah/Iran are currently in the middle of executing 4GW very, very well and will go on to achieve their desired goals as a result - greater political control of Lebanon. The results for Iran’s desire to deflect attention away from their nuke program aren’t quite so clear yet.
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
Glasnost, I’m afraid your response is laughable. You seem to be saying that the, in your words, ’kill them all let god sort them out’ method is not the norm or common these day? More than just a few ’counterexamples’ exist. I think a brief look at say, Africa, or Southeast Asia, or maybe this place called the Middle East, in incidents within the last decade (and in some places ongoing) proves this premise dead wrong. You are mistaking the unpopularity and political preference for the straight and narrow Western-oriented Westphalian war for the reality of what actually goes on.

The first major record of war is, in fact, the Old Testament. The Tribes of the Jews fighting amongst other hostiles that didn’t make it to this day. Major empires that were grand, such as the Egyptians, Persians, etc... didn’t have as good a record, and their art of war degraded. There was always the powerful and the weak, and the upstarts who maintained their independence or won conquest over the others. This continues, to the massive armies of the Mongols, Turks, the most recent being the Germans and the Russians even... with policies of active extermination.

Statistically speaking, the ’global behavioral norms’ you refer to might more accurately be the Rwandan slaughter, Congo Civil War, Sudan, Saddam and his minorities, the Burmese and their rural campaigns, Cambodia’s last political episodes- do I need to go on? The last ’norms’ or ’ideals of warfighting conduct’ (if you will) to which I believe you refer to, were not even achieved in the Second World War, although mostly honored in the First.

I’m glad you feel so confident in borders and international law, but I might ask you to consult with a few people first before you assume some universal agreement with that premise. It’s safe to say Iran and Syria don’t seem to share this idea. I think you could probably make a nice argument that the Lebanese conflict at the moment is, in some ways, about differences of opinion on borders and sovereignty in the Middle East.

But that’s just me.
Written By: Sunguh
Agree with Sunguh. Inter-tribal massacres and conflict are the norm.

The civilised age of war is a legacy of American and Soviet conflict. This was a battle of competing systems for the hearts and minds and stomachs of the world. Both capitalists and communists believed that everyone irrespective of tribe or race were going to be on their side eventually. Also both preferred capturing the state as intact as possible to help make their systems work.

Jews and Arabs are tribes, neither is prosetylizing the other to convert them into their tribe. The religions require thinking of themselves as supreme. Their differences seem intractable.
Written By: unaha-closp
"Even if Israel wins every battle, how can the war end if you have no entity with which you can negotiate; no entity which can declare the war at an end? Why can’t Hezbollah be confronted conventially, with 3rd Generation Warfare?"

Hezbollah is well organized and well lead. Of course you can negotiate with them, just as you can negotiate with any other organized entity. My understanding is that Nasrullah has been pretty good about adhering to agreements he has made. Whether there is grounds for agreement is another question. Hezbollah initiated this attack and kidnapping to start a negotiation for the exchange of prisoners (and by doing so enhancing Hezbollah’s prestige and power). Israel escalated the conflict with the object of "destroying" Hezbollah (something that Hezbollah never would negotiate), but now some more limited goal of preventing it from being able to attack Israel.

What you are really saying is that you can’t easily coerce Hezbollah into laying down its arms, because they can run away. But you can clearly negotiate with them.
Written By: chew2
URL: http://

Add Your Comment
  NOTICE: While we don't wish to censor your thoughts, we do blacklist certain terms of profanity or obscenity. This is not to muzzle you, but to ensure that the blog remains work-safe for our readers. If you wish to use profanity, simply insert asterisks (*) where the vowels usually go. Your meaning will still be clear, but our readers will be able to view the blog without worrying that content monitoring will get them in trouble when reading it.
Comments for this entry are closed.
HTML Tools:
Bold Italic Blockquote Hyperlink
Vicious Capitalism


Buy Dale's Book!
Slackernomics by Dale Franks