August 2007

4GW describes the modern form of network warfare and strategies. What will this new form of war look like?

Network warfare is the principle adaptation of 4th generation warfare. Most networks fund themselves through criminal activity, making them independent military actors. Bluntly, this is the modern form of Warlordism. These new warlords create mini-states, control the black market, and use paramilitary forces. Law enforcement is incapable of dealing with such military threats.

 Failed states are governments that lack the monopoly of legitimate violence in their territories.  They cannot create the security mechanisms to control militant network growth. Self-funding non-state actors have become powerful military players – a problem that hasn’t been seen since the last era of Steppe nomad invasions.

The War on Terror represents a new style of warfare by non-state actors using network tactics. Military scholars call this “Fourth Generation Warfare” but the general public still does not understand the conflict and the ways to win. Imagine if in 1943, Americans did not understand blitzkrieg tactics and advocated incorrect military responses to the threat. I propose a framework for analyzing this security threat.

Defeating networks requires a comprehensive strategy.


Non-state actors are the principle users of networks. They may be tribes, criminals, warlords, terrorists, insurgents, or religious cults. They blur political and legal boundaries so there is no distinction between offense and defense.

Networks use swarming tactics. Networks naturally disperse and evade their enemies. With skilled leaders, they rapidly converge on a target, attack it and then rapidly disperse before their enemy can respond. Their tactics are similar to the Steppe Horse Archers of the Middle Ages. Swarming tactics are ideal for disrupting a modern nation-state.

In any society, people link together and self-organize into groups. Volunteer civic societies form as people find like-minded men to coordinate their activities. There are limits to network growth. Geography, communication, and transportation technology set the maximum distance a network can cover.

Nonstate warfare will be one of the means of fighting wars in the 21st century.

It takes many appearances – crime, insurgency, terrorism, tribalism, etc.  These are not new threats, but modern technology has increased individual productivity and power allowing non-state actors to compete with nation-states.

There’s a difference between understanding a verbal explanation of a scientific or mathematic concept and understanding the mathematical formulas involved.

Quantum Mechanics is almost purely mathematical without verbal explanations. It’s difficult to convey the conceptual idea. This, of course, allows charalatans to abuse the concept to spread mystical nonsense like Deepak Chopra’s Ayurvedic Medicine.

Here’s the classic essay by Eugene Wigner.

Overcoming Bias discusses Semantic Stopsigns.

Consider the First Cause Paradox. We know that time began with the Big Bang. So what came before that? The physical laws may have been different beforehand, if so what were they? “God” is not an answer. It’s a logical stopping point.

And another mystical belief bites the dust. OBEs can be recreated in a lab without using drugs. OBEs are usually associated with near-death experiences and drug use. Now we know how stress and illusions trick the mind.

Fantasies truly are dangerous. There are a couple of places in the world where locals stop polio vaccination. One is Nigeria and the other is the Pashtun regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Polio vaccines are a Western or Zionist Plot to kill children or render women infertile. So polio continues to thrive and modern medicine cannot elimate the disease because of irrational fears and bigotry.

Back at home, many Britons stopped taking the MMR Vaccine after it was incorrectly linked to autism. The vaccine has since been proven safe but there are plenty out there believing in fantasies that the government and Big Pharma are lying to the public.

David Kilcullen describes the “Anatomy of a Tribal Revolt” at Small Wars Journal. The Tribes’ rebellion against al-Qaeda is one of the most unexpected turns of events in this entire war.

Some aspects of the war in Iraq are hard to fit into “classical” models of insurgency. One of these is the growing tribal uprising against al Qa’ida, which could transform the war in ways not factored into neat “benchmarks” developed many months ago and thousands of miles away.

Read the whole thing.

The Ancient Egyptian Kingdoms stopped at what was called the Great Bend. All nations throughout history only extended political and economic control as far as their transportation allowed. The Egyptians historically used the Nile River as a highway, allowing the Kingdom to govern far away regions.

The Nile River stops being useful for transportation around the Great Bend and the many cataracts in the region.

Al-Sadr called for the Mahdi Militia to cease activities for 6 months so he can reorganize the force. This follows increased conflict between the Madhis and other Shia political parties.

Clashes at Karbala killed 50 during the pilgrimage. Mahdi militiamen attacked SIIC and Dawa political offices in Baghdad recently, escalating tensions even further.

The Jaish al-Mahdi is badly fragmented, with many units acting as local mafias more than a centrally controlled militia. The other Shia political parties, such as SIIC and Dawa, are turning against Sadr’s forces now that al-Qaeda is a declining threat.

Michael Totten’s journalist tour through Iraq continues. He’s in Mushadah now, and reports on the quality of the Iraqi police in this town. They’re corrupt of course, and there’s a mixture of good news, bad news, and signs of improvement. It’s worth a read.

Industrialization is usually describes as a technological and material revolution. It also changed organizations to handle the massive increase in material production and distribution. Urbanization was one obvious result.

A more subtle one was the rise of technical specialists, hierarchical management, and administrative coordination. The corporate models replaced the partnership model in many businesses.

GaN is a potential superconductor which can replace silicon. DARPA is funding a project to develop GaN communications. (via DefenseTech)

BAE Systems will build a 160-watt solid-state, gallium nitride (GaN) power amplifier for communications, electronic warfare, and radar applications. The solid-state technology will replace older vacuum tubes, called traveling wave tubes, currently used to produce high-power radio frequency signals.

DARPA’s support will help fund new ways of manufacturing GaN to lower the costs.

Hot Spot mapping uses spatial autocorrelations to identify criminal behavior in a city or other region. Traditional mapping plots the frequency of events and location and uses this to extrapolate probability trends. That does not quite work well, because crime spreads like forest fires. Criminals adapt and change their behavior. Hot spot mapping takes this into account.

The basic idea is that individuals do not make their decisions independently of one another. They act according to changing information in their environment, so their behavior is interrelated. As an analogy, humans are like ants in an ant colony, interacting, exchanging information, and displaying “swarm” behavior.

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