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With everything going on in the world today, a lot of people are wondering… WHAT IS GOING ON?
If you’re reading this article, you probably agree that we are under attack by something. We’re all swimming in cultural sewage, and something needs to be done about it.
Before we discuss various methods of nonviolent struggle that may help us address the issue, it will be helpful for us to first cultivate situational awareness about what the hell is going on in the world. Why is everyone and everything so crazy? If we agree that patriots and lovers of liberty are under attack by some sort of adversary, then we need to first be educated on how the adversary fights.
Today, we’ll attempt to provide one answer to this question. We say one answer, because there is no single answer to the world’s problems, but maybe one answer will provide a frame of reference to help us identify some solutions to the problems at hand. That answer could lie within the idea of fifth-generation warfare (5GW) – if only the idea itself wasn’t so much of a paradox…
So, what is 5GW?
Well, that’s the trouble, isn’t it. You can open another browser and Google the term “fifth-generation warfare,” and you might find some information or a wikipedia article that does a poor job of explaining what it is. Chances are, you’re not easily going to find a good definition for it, so we will have to come at this indirectly by first talking about the first four generations of warfare. And be advised, a lot of this stuff is really hard to understand. It gets right down to the philosophy of the universe itself, so, thinking about this topic is not for the faint of heart.
In this article, we’re going to cover the first four generations of warfare. We can think of these topics as different ages or “gradients” of warfare, all separated by technology and innovation, more or less.
Please hang in there with us. This is not going to be easy to explain, and you may need to read through a couple times for it all to sink in.
OK, patriot. Let’s go.
0th GENERATION OF WARFARE (0GW)
At the zeroth gradient of warfare (0GW), war is a genocide and a holocaust. In 0GW, the entire able population fights. As such, there is no difference between civilians and soldiers. Likewise, as there is no distinct army to destroy, 0GWs are genocidal. Ant colonies regularly engage in 0GWs. Because 0GWs are total wars, counterinsurgency (COIN) in 0GW typically involves ethnic cleansing in kind. Thus, the Great Sioux Uprising that temporarily removed all whites from what is now South Dakota, for instance, was rapidly followed by the removal of most Sioux Indians onto reservations.
1st GENERATION OF WARFARE (1GW)
The first generation of warfare is pretty simple. It’s what we think of when we think of ancient warfare. First generation warfare is characterized by certain tactics, like the phalanx, or line-in-column attacks of large armies clashing together on open battlefields. This is the first real categorization of warfare which nation-states, or groups, or societies acting as nation-states fought against each other.
Over time, as technology progressed and allowed humans to kill each other more efficiently, the second generation was born.
2nd GENERATION OF WARFARE (2GW)
Technologies such as rifled weapons, machine guns, and significant developments in the field of artillery. For this era of warfare, think First World War. This is really where the term “modern warfare” comes into play, where technological developments forced radical changes in the field of warfare. Gone were the days where large, long lines of troops advanced over open ground. Welcome to the trenches.
But as we know, following the carnage of the Great War, we have the interwar years – the years between the first and second world wars. During this time, humanity experienced yet more technological growth, and again developed a third generation of warfare.
3rd GENERATION OF WARFARE (3GW)
We went very quickly from the Sopwith Camel (a British First World War single-seat biplane fighter aircraft) and the zeppelin to the Messerschmitt and the B-17 Flying Fortress, and the technological developments of the interwar years were quite astounding and occurred very rapidly. Even within the field of aviation, the Bristol F-2 became the Spitfire in less than 9 years.
But in this era of warfare, we also have developments on the ground. Namely, by a little thing called “Bewegungskirieg,” or Maneuver Warfare, also called “Blitzkrieg” by those who are incapable of pronouncing Bewegungskirieg. Using speed and maneuverability to rapidly reach objectives in conjunction with a highly mobile infantry, and further developments in combined arms warfare, the third generation of warfare gives us the Second World War. But in the final days of the Second World War, a new war was building.
The nuclear weapon, and its use in combat was one of the most important events in human history and, as a result, the cold war developed conflict in an atomic age in which conflicts existed, but took the form of proxy wars. This is when technological developments change the nature of warfare yet again.
This is the era of using stealth instead of brute force. Using precision-guided munitions instead of carpet bombing campaigns. Remember, we’re still in the third generation of warfare, in the “world war mentality” for conflicts like Korea, the Vietnam War, the Persian Gulf War, and even the later Iraq War.
The third generation of warfare encompasses the winning hearts and minds concepts we know all too well. New toys like stealth bombers and satelites changed a lot but the end goals and strategies used to achieve those goals was very similar as to how the majority of the Second World War was fought.
But one of these wars was not like the other, again, hinting at the academic squabble that occurs when trying to define these things. So, to explain that, let’s jump to the fourth generation of warfare.
4th GENERATION OF WARFARE (4GW)
The fourth generation of warfare can be defined in a single word: insurgency. And this is where things start becoming political, and the amateur historian starts running into some problems with the research.
For instance, one of the first academics to talk about fourth-generation warfare is William S. Lind. Lind, who is the most prolific writer on fourth-generation warfare even has his Wikipedia page slathered with politics. We see that, on his own page, he is defined as a conservative. Why does that matter if we’re talking about warfare doctrine? He’s defined by his politics first, and his work second. And scrolling down the page, under the criticism section, we have the very first complaints from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). So, yeah, there you go … can’t really get any reliable information from Wikipedia anymore, an idea which is thick with irony, considering the topic.
Interestingly enough, it looks like most of the criticisms about Lind come from linking his thoughts on warfare doctrine to “Cultural Marxism,” which explains everything … can’t talk about communism or marxism in today’s world or point out its problems without being labeled a far-right extremist, which is exactly what seems to have happened here, too.
But anyway, if you dig deep enough, you’ll find one of Lind’s thoughts on fourth-generation warfare in which he defines it as when the state loses its monopoly in war.
He goes on to say that,
All over the world, state militaries find themselves fighting nonstate opponents such as al-Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. Almost everywhere, the state is losing. Fourth-generation war is also marked by a return to a world of cultures, not merely states, in conflict. We now find ourselves facing the Christian West’s oldest and most steadfast opponent, Islam.
Of course, Lind wrote this in the context of speaking about the then current US wars in the middle east, but the interesting thing to note is that these wars have been occurring for a long time.
As we mentioned when explaining third-generation warfare, there is a bit of academic squabbling that goes on. For instance, take the Vietnam War. Here you have a conflict that exhibits two styles of warfare. In the years since, Vietnam has become the infamous poster child for the deadly “I” word: Insurgency. A disturbing number of people don’t know that the Vietnam War was far more conventional than we think.
We hear the word “Vietnam,” and images of the Vietcong come to mind. US soldiers patrolling through the jungles and getting ambushed around every corner. But there was this thing called the North Vietnamese Army, which was a legitimate, conventional military force. No one knows about this more than the military aviation communities.
Entire generations of military aviators have been trained with doctrine developed from the forgotten air war of Vietnam. The entire concept of the “Wild Weasels,” and the doctrine of the suppression of enemy air defenses, is a massive part of modern warfare, from Iraq, to Bosnia, to right now in Ukraine. But while the conventional, third-generation war was raging in North Vietnam, in Cambodia and Laos, some dudes in black pajamas were defining the fourth generation of warfare which, at last, brings us to the fifth generation of warfare.
5th GENERATION OF WARFARE (5GW)
Here is where we run into problems again because academics cannot agree on whether fifth-generation warfare even exists. Up until this moment, warfare has been defined by what some have called the “theory of sequential emergence,” which is just a fancy way of saying that the first generation of warfare led to the second. And the lessons learned during the second generation led to the third, and so on. Daniel Abbott came up with this graphic which indicates that the generations of war build upon one another and exist at the same time.
Each progressive generation of warfare does not totally replace the generation before it, but rather builds on it, which allows for lesser-developed styles of warfare to exist and be conducted at the same time. In other words, if your primary military operation is counterinsurgency, you can still have conventional third or even second generation conflicts occurring simultaneously, but the fifth generation of warfare seems to break this mould.
It seems like most people who talk and argue about fifth generation warfare are at least united on one thing: fifth generation warfare does not really adhere to this progressive generation model. So let’s address some of these theories and try to piece together what fifth generation warfare actually is.
Like we mentioned, academics sort of agree on the first four generations of warfare; however, that’s where the similarities end. A few academics, such as William Lind, have stated that the fifth generation of warfare is really just a collection of tactics that should be nestled under the fourth or even the fifth generation of warfare. So it really doesn’t have a definition as a separate field of warfare, which makes sense because he’s the guy who wrote the book on fourth generation warfare.
Remember, history is written by humans, humans that have opinions, make mistakes, and have other faults. That’s why history lies in the heart of debate and why we need to crack open another book. If we take a look at Daniel Abbott’s book, adequately titled, The Handbook of Fifth Generation Warfare, he states that fifth-generation warfare is a war of information and perception, which sounds about right, but that’s a really broad definition. We’ll come back to that in a moment…
Others, such as the US Air Force, see fifth-generation warfare as simply an extension of the air war. They see it as a sensor problem and that a military aircraft that is capable of waging fifth-generation warfare will have certain sensors, communications suites, and other various electronics and capabilities to operate in highly contested battle spaces.
Hmmhh… not quite what we’re going for, is it? This is great and all, but not really what we’re talking about with regards to fifth-generation warfare itself. This is defining the fifth-generation of fighter aircraft which is not the same thing, but this is important to note, because the term “fifth-generation” was first coined in this context which is why a lot of military strategists think of fifth generation warfare in terms of technology or sensors, which is again, not the right way to think about it. In fact, the People’s Liberation Army of China figured this out a long time ago.
In 1999, a book or, really, a white paper which became highly controversial throughout the defense community. In the early 2000’s, two colonels in the People’s Liberation Army wrote the book called Unrestricted Warfare in which they examine this topic; particularly, in the context of a conflict with the West. In their book, they state that,
What we are referring to are not changes in the instruments of war, the technology of war, the modes of war, or the forms of war. What we are referring to is the function of warfare.
So again, this hints that the fifth generation of warfare not simply being a new sequential progression of war. This is also noted in a very short paper published by the think tank 360 ISR which mentions that,
We are no longer fighting a defined adversary in a defined battlespace for a defined period of time. Instead, the fifth-generation mission space is a continuous global battle of narratives that will play out over both virtual and physical space and encompass a range of violent and nonviolent actions and effects.
That’s a pretty solid definition of 5GW; however, we are reading this from a perspective of nation-state warfare. This paper goes on to say that,
Nations will seek to defend their borders through the extension of military influence: examples include the deployment of double digit SAMs and Iskandar missiles in Kaliningrad or the buildup of defenses on hitherto uninhabited islands in the South China Sea. Therefore, the experiences and lessons of third and fourth generation warfare still have a great utility. Militaries still need to maintain and develop the capability to defeat a more traditional adversary in a technologically complex environment.
All of this we would agree with in the context of a nation-state’s concerns with the changing nature of warfare. It makes a lot of sense for defense officials to think along these lines. However, we are not writing a term paper at West Point or The Royal Military College of Canada, and though the two topics are heavily linked by the very nature of 5GW itself, we are more concerned with the civilian implications of this changing style of warfare, especially considering the it is in the civilian space that this war is being fought. And here the elephant begins to appear in the room.
This paper literally just stated that in a fifth-generation war, we will not be able to define our adversaries. And by default, the other side of the coin is that we will not know who our allies are either. And so we begin to plant the seed of what very few academics want to talk about.
US Marine Corps Lt Colonel Stanton Kohr got a little closer to what we’re trying to get at in the Marine Corps Gazette from January 2009. He takes a more boots-on-ground approach describing the symptoms of fifth-generation warfare. He writes that,
The battlefield will be something strange – cyberspace, or the Cleveland water supply, or Wall Street’s banking systems, or YouTube. The mission will be instilling fear, and it will succeed.
Lieutenant Colonel Kohr’s idea is a common one among fifth-generation warfare theorists, and one that you often see online by websites claiming that fifth-generation warfare is simply a war of propaganda. A war for your mind or something like that. And we think this simple definition is quite accurate, but not totally. Remember, the tactics used in warfare sometimes do not reflect, and are oftentimes counterintuitive to the end goal.
For instance, psychological warfare uses various means to get a person to think a certain way about something, but is that the final goal? No. The final goal is to get a person to act a certain way. Actions are more devastating than thoughts in warfare, but since thoughts lead to actions, we see a lot of tactics being used to affect thoughts. So, all of this considered, we can cobble together a rough list of some characteristics of fifth-generation warfare as it applies to civilian and military communities alike. We’ll cover all that in Part 2 of this introductory series on 5GW.
Now, congratulate and give yourself a pat on the back for making it this far, patriot. You already know more than 99% of the population.
Fifth-generation warfare (5GW) is not a progression from fourth-generation warfare, but rather, more like a Matryoshka doll, where all the generations (or gradients) of warfare are nested within each other, all happening simultaneously. But if we had to sum it all up for now, we’re in war of information whose purpose is to confuse and control its targets (us).
5GW is a really complicated subject, but we need to have at least a working knowledge of how it affects our neighbours’ behaviour. Whether we like it or not, we are already at war. The elites are counting on us to be ignorant of the full spectrum of warfare we are all currently embroiled in.
By continuing to educate yourself and your communities on the information presented by organizations like ours, the better equipped we will be to neutralize the attacks, organize our communities, and eventually (nonviolently) overcome the immense challenges ahead of us.
We’re doing our best to provide you with practical knowledge and tools to execute a range of realistic, nonviolent actions and effects at the local level within your communities. Thanks for your time and attention, patriot.
Adapted from a lecture by S2 Underground. “5th Generation Warfare: History, Modern Context, and (Some) Solutions.” YouTube, 30 Mar. 2022, www.youtube.com/watch?v=0p10G1m3ZfU.
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