The People’s Liberation Army has been looking at 4th Generation War theory for some time too. They call it
Unrestricted Warfare.

Qiao was quoted as stating that “the first rule of unrestricted warfare is that there are no rules, with nothing forbidden.” Elaborating on this idea, he asserted that strong countries would not use the same approach against weak countries because “strong countries make the rules while rising ones break them and exploit loopholes…”

Asymmetrical warfare breaks the rules to gain advantages over your opponents. These PLA officers analyze different methods of defeating a technologically superior United States. They advise disrupting networks, economic warfare, “lawfare” and strategic terrorism.

The theory suggests that China evade the military and technological strength of the US while waging a shadow war. And, as a matter of fact, China is vulnerable to the same strategy.

Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui viewed the 1991 Iraq War as the last great war of Industrialized Warfare. Far from ushering in a “New World Order” as Bush thought, it means of fighting war changed to nullify American advantages.

This began during the Cold War. Nuclear weapons prevented direct confrontation, so the US and USSR fought through proxies in the classical style. India and Pakistan also learned to fight through proxies. Unrestricted Warfare (or 4GW) goes beyond mere proxy war.

Forget rituals and norms and go back to the purpose of “war.” It is about politics conflicts of interest. States and other agents use “power” in any form to compel the other state. States are like two wrestlers trying to pin their opponent to the floor. They shift their focal point of effort to pin the opponent down either through sheer force or surprising moves. If you are outmatched by a stronger wrestler, you have to outsmart him and leverage his own power against him. How do you do that?

Now take a step back. What is war?

So war is not limited to conventional combat between professional armed forces. War uses “all means, including armed force or non-armed force, military and non-military, and lethal and non-lethal means to compel the enemy to accept one’s interests.”

The PLA officers describe the evolution of conventional weaponry since the age of gunpowder – basically mirroring the “Generational Warfare” theory of the 4GW school.

The Information Revolution shifts the decisive point of battle off the battlefield. Weak opponents can break the rules to win.

This change redefines war in unexpected ways.

War in the age of technological integration and globalization has eliminated the right of weapons to label war and, with regard to the new starting point, has realigned the relationship of weapons to war, while the appearance of weapons of new concepts, and particularly new concepts of weapons, has gradually blurred the face of war. Does a single “hacker” attack count as a hostile act or not? Can using financial instruments to destroy a country’s economy be seen as a battle? Did CNN’s broadcast of an exposed corpse of a U.S. soldier in the streets of Mogadishu shake the determination of the Americans to act as the world’s policeman, thereby altering the world’s strategic situation? And should an assessment of wartime actions look at the means or the results? Obviously, proceeding with the traditional definition of war in mind, there is no longer any way to answer the above questions. When we suddenly realize that all these non-war actions may be the new factors constituting future warfare, we have to come up with a new name for this new form of war: Warfare which transcends all boundaries and limits, in short: unrestricted warfare.

Unrestricted Warfare is necessary. States found themselves with less and less freedom to use conventional military forces, so they have to shift to new spheres to achieve the same objecties. They will still fight, of course. This should never have been doubted.

What happens is that states and non-states eliminate the artificial division between military and civilian spheres and unleash war in its original, unregulated form.

Direct State to State warfare is limited by nuclear weapons. States have to find methods of attacking rivals without triggering a nuclear response. They also have to learn how to counter and evade the US Conventional Armed Forces to defeat the US.

The Islamists seem to be discovering these same points through trial and error.

Remember: No One Has the Right to Label Warfare. If you set up rules, the underdog will break to rules to achieve dominance.
Qiao and Wang advise four ways of attacking America.
1) Lawfare
2) Economic/Environmental Warfare
3) Disrupting Networks
4) Terrorism and Assassination

International Laws and customary behavior of strong states create predictability. The laws they make are intended to reinforce and guard their strength. The United States and the West created the Laws of War to regulate conventional conflicts, with a highly ritualized distinction between civilians, military, and political affairs. It is designed to limit excesses and concentrate war onto a particular battlefield.

So step back and say “so what?” Think of how you can subvert the laws of war to your own advantage. Law becomes your shield against retaliation – not a protector of civilians.

Lawfare is the principle that enemies can subvert Western Laws as a weapon against Western states. China, Islamists, and others can freely violate the laws and expect the West to limit its retaliation as required by law. False accusations of massacres, civilian casualties, torture, etc, can be used to constrain action by American Armed Forces.

Economic Warfare and network disruption are direct material attacks on civilians. Chinese – or other – forces can bypass battlefields and directly damage or destroy civilian economies. They can make financial attacks, like currency speculation. This include “Cyberwarfare” and other forms of electronic espionage and sabotage. They can destroy transportation and communication lines, or tear down electrical grids. They can also attack or damage the ecology.

These types of attacks will destroy the material way of life in the West.

Political Warfare includes terrorism and assassinations and targets the moral sphere of civilian society. Assassinations and strategically planned terrorist attacks are disruptive. Care must be taken not to rally the targetted population, however. This is the trickiest part of political war. Terror attacks, if done correctly, can demoralize the American public, particularly over the long term. InfoWarfare with its ideological and propaganda components also plays a role in political warfare.

The Information Revolution does represent a revolution in military concepts.

The era of “strong and brave soldiers who are heroic defenders of the nation” has already passed. In a world where even “nuclear warfare” will perhaps become obsolete military jargon, it is likely that a pasty-faced scholar wearing thick eyeglasses is better suited to be a modern soldier than is a strong young lowbrow with bulging biceps.

Heh. Revenge of the Chinese nerds.

In all seriousness, the Chinese are looking at the key points of network disruptions and 4th Generation Warfare as much as the West. The war in Iraq is a prototype for this new style of warfare.

There’s also a lot of bad within this book too. These Chinese officers have some goofy ideas mixed in with great ones – but I guess all speculative military strategies do this.

Advertisements