4th Generation Warfare

Many guerrilla war tactics are not new. They’ve just grown more effective because economies are far more sophisticated and more vulnerable.

Infrastructure is one vulnerable network. The rest of the economy relies on communication, transportation, and energy networks. Information and resources flow through these networks. If critical nodes fail, or the links are severed, it causes a cascade failure throughout the economy.

Our infrastructure is built as a scale-free network. These types of networks are robust against a large number of random internal errors. However, hostile agents can observe the structure of scale-free networks and identify critical hubs. Scale-free networks are extremely fragile when under external attack.

Religious men of the 19th century believed that a benevolent God would only create a moral nature. How does one explain carnivores? At least they killed swiftly and prevented longer suffering from starvation. This was a form of just killing, so goes the reasoning. But they were at lost to explain the extreme cruelty Ichneumon Wasp. Stephen Jay Gould describes the nonmoral nature of this wasp. Wasp females paralyze other insects, then they lay their eggs inside the host. When those eggs hatch, they eat the immobilized but living host inside out, bit by bit, and kill it slowly.

The nation-state is playing host to its parasitic killer.

Here’s a fun idea. What if China or Russia use special forces to carry out attacks on economic infrastructure or assassinate individuals in the US… and get us to blame Al-Qaeda?

The Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact did just that during the Cold War. The Stasis secret police in East Germany carried out assassinations and terrorist attacks in the West and shifted the blame onto a Leftist terrorist group, the Red Army Faction. The attacks copied the terrorist style but it was a bit too professional to have been done by amatuers. Now they have proof – the Stasi and KGB waged an unrestricted shadow war in the West and avoided responsibility.

All old things are new again. Mexican Intelligence is tracing the Pemex oil line attacks by left-wing radicals back to Hugo Chavez. Disguised disruption campaigns, what fun.

Robin Hanson warns that Catastrophes, like epidemics, earthquakes, forest fires, and wars, follow power law distributions.

Humans have slowly built more productive societies by slowly acquiring various kinds of capital, and by carefully matching them to each other. Because disruptions can disturb this careful matching, and discourage social coordination, large disruptions can cause a “social collapse,” i.e., a reduction in productivity out of proportion to the disruption. For many types of disasters, severity seems to follow a power law distribution. For some of types, such as wars and earthquakes, most of the expected harm is predicted to occur in extreme events…

The collapse is actually quite worse than the initial disruption.

To avoid a catastrophic collapse, you have to prepare for unpredictable Black Swan events. Well, alright…

Biotech continues to grow exponentially, just like Moore’s Law in computer industries. This could trigger a major economic revolution on par with the Industrial or Information revolution. Or not. Predicting the future goes into the realm of science fiction.

Any tech filters down to the individual and small group level over time. So this could continue to empower smaller networks at the expense of the state.

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.

Here’s a goofy idea. Why don’t we negotiate with network insurgencies? We cannot for the same reason why assassinations do not work – decentralized leadership.

Thailand discovered this problem recently. In 10,000 years of recorded history, the art of diplomacy has never figured out how to “negotiate” with decentralized organizations. States negotiate with hierarchical organized tribes, corporations and other states. In all this time no one figured out how to negotiate with non-hierarchical non-state actors – that’s probably because you cannot

So anyway, some fools want to try it anyway and open diplomacy with al-Qaeda.

Here are three articles on uncovering and disrupting insurgent networks. Decentralized network insurgencies are organized differently than the hierarchical Mao Zedung model. They require different strategies to defeat. These techniques can be adapted to a Counterinsurgency strategy.
Martin J. Muckian Structural Vulnerabilities of
Networked Insurgencies

Tsvetovat and Carley Structural Knowledge and Success of Anti-Terrorist Activity

Carley, Lee and Krackhardt Destabalizing Networks

On Guerrilla War is still a relevant book in military science.

Of particular importance are the chapters on organizing guerrillas and political problems.

Don’t worry, they’re just testing out their cool new cyberwar toys.

China hacked into the Defense ministries of Britain, Germany, France, and the US and engaged in espionage and sabotage. CS Monitor wonders if this is aDigital Cold War. The PLA created dedicated Cyberwar units. So has the US Air Force. The US military just discovered a PLA plan to shut down the Pentagon and battle fleets with preemptive cyber attacks. And rumor has it, the US may have sabotaged the PLA Defense Ministry in retaliation for the recent hacking.

The Chinese and Americans are testing each other to find out who has “electronic dominance.” And for the record, I still dislike the word “cyberwar” – it’s electronic sabotage. It supplements actual warmaking.

The National Science Foundation created the “Dark Web” project to hunt for Jihadis online.

This is where the Dark Web project comes in. Using advanced techniques such as Web spidering, link analysis, content analysis, authorship analysis, sentiment analysis and multimedia analysis, Chen and his team can find, catalogue and analyze extremist activities online.

One of the tools… is a technique called Writeprint which automatically extracts thousands of multilingual, structural, and semantic features to determine who is creating ‘anonymous’ content online.

Via Belmont Club, where Wretchard’s comments about the evolving arms race in the Cyberwar. The Jihadis are learning to fight back with “booby-trap” viruses and other countermeasures.

Orson Scott Card discusses How Our Civilization Can Fall.

Card describes the historical fall of civilizations, concentrating on Rome. He tries to find the general principles behind the fall and comes up with this: complex economies are very robust under normal circumstances but are very fragile when attacked.

Once the economic flows are disrupted, specialization comes to an end. Then society is reduced to autarky and poverty. As he says, “In the crash, you fall farther”

Card explains how the United States is vulnerable to the same kind of disruptive attacks. Niall Ferguson concurs, and worries about “Sinking Globalization”.

Six explosions destroyed segments of Pemex oil pipelines today. A month ago, a left-wing radical group sabotaged a pipeline and shut down a number of businesses.

It may be the same group or copy-cats. A single attack can cause a small cascade failure, like what happened in July. Someone out there is following up on that attack. If this continues and they hit other vulnerable targets, they can bring down chunks of the Mexican economy.

Cultural Intelligence is possibly a more important tool than conventional intel for counterinsurgencies. Insurgents and counterinsurgents compete to control the civilian population – much like two businesses competing for consumers. Conventional intel primarily helps the combatants fight each other, while cultural intel helps understand the needs and interests of the contested civilians.

Anthropologists once played a major role in American small wars. After a brief interlude during the Vietnam era, Anthropologists areagain playing a role in military operations.

The US Army deployed its first “Human Terrain Team” in Afghaninstan, with anthropologists working with the tribes and civilian populations.

Wars burn out.

There are “dampening effects” that reduce the amplitude of wars. Moral and material effects place an upper limit on the intensity of warfare as well as the duration. Eventually, these effects slow and end the war.

4GW seems to have limitless potential in theory. It can disrupt economic systems, win an information war, and generally wreck havoc. In practice, not so much, at least yet. Even in theory, we need to remember there are restraints on the ability of any militant faction.

I want to propose a simple model of the dynamics of insurgencies. In traditional warfare, two or more states will directly fight one another to achieve victory. Insurgencies defy this framework, not because insurgents avoid fighting, but because the victory objectives are substantially different.

In an insurgency, two or more forces compete for control over a common resource and objective – the civilian population. The insurgents organize to change the status quo. They have to win the support of the civilians by any means in order to gain victory.

Insurgent and government forces need a civilian “ecology” to gather resources, material, and intelligence to win.

As a matter of speculation, how can you shut down a nation-state with a series of highly targetted strikes? Why would I do this? I don’t want to. I’m merely pointing out how.

Economic systems are vulnerable to disruptive attacks. This won’t break the state itself, but it can impoverish it. In particular, I would look for system infrastructure that is old, has a high failure rate, and is in high demand.

Chinese officers and American officers are thinking along the same lines. The Chinese call this unrestricted warfare; Americans are calling it 4th Generation Warfare. Terrorism as a tactic failed. Now we’re seeing insurgents become more creative by attacking civilian economic networks rather than civilians. So let’s imagine ourselves as clever insurgents. What can we easily attack that can seriously harm out nation-state enemies?

LTC Grossman’s story of sheep, wolves, and sheepdogs is something of a classic essay for military and police men.

When I was younger, I was always fascinated by how things worked. I wanted to know how technology worked, how the economy worked, how any system worked. But I wasn’t going to be an engineer or an economist.
My second thought was always “how do I break it?”
My third thought was “how do I stop someone from breaking it?” Asking the third question made me think like a sheepdog. Soon I’ll be trained as one.

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.

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