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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Facets of False Rhetoric

Something I've noticed over nearly 15 years of being involved in polemics on various subjects is that a certain rhetorical pattern reliably emerges on the side that has the weaker case, especially when it has the benefit of mainstream endorsement. I've named the elements of this pattern the Facets of False Rhetoric.
  1. It tends to refrain from specifically mentioning the advocates, adherents, and works of the other side.
  2. When it does mention them, it is primarily in an effort to disqualify them in some way rather than substantively addressing them.
  3. It fails to directly address the relevant points raised, and instead tends to mischaracterize them.
  4. It regularly sets up straw men and attacks them in lieu of the actual arguments presented. It often resorts to bait-and-switches and hides behind ambiguity.
  5. It falsely claims the other side is ignorant or misguided on the basis of petty irrelevancies and ignores the fact that the other side is discussing substantive matters in sufficient detail to belie any such charges.
  6. The other side is declared to be "dangerous" for reasons that are seldom specified or substantiated.
I've seen this pattern at work in the American political discourse. I've seen it in the atheism discourse. I've seen it in the Theorum of Evolution by Natural Selection and Various Other Means discourse. I've seen it in the global warming discourse. I've seen it in the economic discourse. I've seen it in the EU discourse. I've even seen it in what passes for the science fiction and fantasy discourse.

And every single time, it has been the behavior exhibited by the side that I consider to have the observably inferior case. In fact, it has reached the point that when I witness such behavior on the part of an advocate, I now consider it a reliable indicator of being fundamentally wrong even when I don't know the subject.

For reasons that will eventually become clear, I have been reading up on what is known among military theorists as 4th Generation War. This is a highly relevant topic these days, as both the undeclared wars in Ukraine and Gaza are direct examples of 4th Generation asymmetric wars between a state actor and a non-state actor. Even the media headlines appear to be ripped out of articles on 4th Gen theory, such as the New York Times piece today: "Israel Is Facing Difficult Choice in Gaza Conflict".

So, it was with some initial puzzlement, followed by a growing sense of recognition, that I read Antulio Echevarria's Fourth-Generation Warfare and Other Myths, published by the Strategic Studies Institute at the U.S. Army War College.  Consider the boxes checked.

1. There are eleven references in 17 pages to mysterious "proponents". Not until we get to the footnotes at the end is there a mention of William S. Lind, the most well-known proponent of 4GW, or of Keith Nightengale, John F. Schmitt, Joseph W. Sutton, and Gary I. Wilson, his co-authors of the seminal 1989 article in the Marine Corps Gazette. Col Thomas Hammes merits a pair of mentions in a single paragraph, only to set up checkbox number two.

2. From the Foreword: "He argues that the proponents of 4GW undermine their own credibility by subscribing to this bankrupt theory."

"However, the tool that [Hammes] employs undermines his credibility. In fact, the theory of 4GW only undermines the credibility of anyone who employs it...."

"The proponents of 4GW failed to perceive this particular flaw in their reasoning because they did not review their theory critically...."

"this new incarnation repeats many of the theory’s old errors, some of which we have not yet discussed."

"it is rather curious that the history and analyses that 4GW theorists hang on current insurgencies should be so deeply flawed."

3. The author goes on at length about the nonexistence of nontrinitarian warfare and what he calls "the myth of Westphalia", neither of which have anything substantive to do with 4GW theory. Westphalia merely serves as a useful starting point from which the state began claiming a monopoly on warfare, it's completely irrelevant otherwise. I was astonished to observe that the author never even mentions what the four generations of 4GW are, let alone attempts to explain why they are a myth.

4. The fact that the Germans never formally incorporated the blitzkrieg concept into their military doctrine doesn't change the observable fact that the Germans did, in fact, adopt a maneuver-and-initiative based model to replace the centralized steel-on-target, command-and-control French model to which the U.S. Army, Navy, and Air Force still subscribe.

5.  "The fact that 4GW theorists are not aware of this work, or at least do not acknowledge it, should give us pause indeed. They have not kept up with the scholarship on unconventional wars, nor with changes in the historical interpretations of conventional wars. Their logic is too narrowly focused and irredeemably flawed. In any case, the wheel they have been reinventing will never turn."

6.  "the theory has several fundamental flaws that need to be exposed before they
can cause harm to U.S. operational and strategic thinking."

"despite a number of profound and incurable flaws, the theory’s proponents continue to push it, an activity that only saps intellectual energy badly needed
elsewhere."

I am not a military expert, but one doesn't have to be one to recognize the way in which this critic is setting off a smokescreen rather than engaging in a substantive critique, let alone presenting a conclusive rebuttal.

(NB: for future reference, the first cretin to say "Link?" is going in the spam file. If you can't figure out how to use bloody Google, then immediately stop reading this blog and never, ever attempt to comment here again. Google or don't Google for confirmation as you see fit, believe that I am accurately quoting the subject matter or not as you like, but do not EVER ask me for a "Link?" It's obnoxious and the answer is always "No".)

That being said, William S. Lind wrote a response to Echevarria's article, which I did not read until after writing this post above. Compare the checkboxes ticked in the article compared to Lind's response. From literally the first paragraph, the differences are observable.
Dr. Antulio J. Echevarria, II is a Director at the Strategic Studies Institute, the U.S. Army War College’s think tank, and the author of an excellent book, After Clausewitz: German Military Thinkers before the Great War. It was therefore both a surprise and a disappointment to find that his recent paper, Fourth-Generation War and Other Myths, is really, really ugly. Far from being a sober, scholarly appraisal, it is a rant, a screed, a red herring seemingly written to convince people not to think about 4GW at all. It is built from a series of straw men, so many that in the end it amounts to a straw giant.
I suspect it would be useful to further develop this pattern of critical observation, add additional checkboxes, and see how reliable it is across disciplines and subject matters. If anyone has any insights into this, I'd be interested in hearing them. I feel this may be Vox's Third Law of Critical Dynamics taking shape, but I have not yet articulated it in a form I find both succinct and satisfying.

First Law: Any sufficiently advanced intelligence is indistinguishable from insanity.
Second Law: If I can imagine it, it must be assumed true. If you can't conclusively prove it, it must be assumed false.
Third Law (first draft): The probability of a position's falsehood increases with the number of applicable facets of false rhetoric.

Labels: ,

119 Comments:

Anonymous Myrddin July 22, 2014 3:00 AM  

Each of these facets is a form of avoidance. Don't mention, disqualify, strawman -- these are all variations on "don't engage."

So, perhaps,
The probability of a position's falsehood increases each time its proponents actively refuse to engage its opposition.

Anonymous Ace9 July 22, 2014 3:27 AM  

Excellent points. On the subject of blitzkrieg, it was never a formal concept because it had always been a facet of German warfare, where aggressive, glory-seeking subordinate commanders would ignore orders and attack whenever and wherever able, sometimes getting in each other's way but often attacking the same army at different spots, leading to decisive overall victories. (See the German Way of War, by Robert Citino). Blitzkrieg is just another way of saying "attack the enemy's weak point with overwhelming force and destroy his command and control", which Alexander did pretty well at Gaugemela.

Anonymous Anti-Democracy Activist July 22, 2014 3:50 AM  

Don't forget painting one's adversaries as mind-numbed robots; automatons who get their matching orders from some object of hate (Rush Limbaugh and Fox News are common), and couldn't possibly have come up with their ideas on their own.

Oh, and painting the other side as "extremists", even when this is an illogical thing to say. For example : There is *no* position on abortion that is not "extremist". Not on either side. There are just some issues that are like that. Not many, but a few - and this is one of them. Anyone who tells you they're not an "extremist" on abortion is trying to fool somebody - either you, or themselves. But yelling "EXTREMIST!" works - it scares the lumpenprole low-information voters who can't comprehend subtlety - so it's used incessantly.

There are many more, as well.

Anonymous Barko Ramius July 22, 2014 3:55 AM  

The media coverage of the Gaza incursion definitely qualifies as FoFR.

For all the talk of Jews owning the media...
Every palestinian killed is a civilian while dead IDF soldiers are referred to as "several Israelis" who were also killed.
Images of Sleeping Palestinian kids on hospital cots are being spammed across networks as casualties. Shots of mid town protestor signs comparing Jews to nazis abound.
In a Jew eat Jew world, The righteous cant hang. The Golden calf cult seeks only death, and will take as many with them as they can.

Write the book. Keegan would be proud.

Blogger Jamie-R July 22, 2014 4:00 AM  

I read it. I find the conflicts today to be caused by state actors neutered by nuclear arms trying to achieve limited expansionary objectives. The US is interesting, under Bush it performed traditional military moves, now under Obama it's supporting insurgencies. In Iraq America defeated itself by changing Presidents, Bush put in the troops and rebuilt the Iraqi state, then Obama trained the insurgents across the border and rebuilt the insurgency. Under Obama, the ability for terrorists to hit the US in the future has increased markedly, because insurgencies in any form are not pro-state, so you'd be loathe to develop and arm them. I know Reagan did a bit of it in the 80s too, but I can't recall him rebuilding the non-state actors that attacked US soil, that would be incredibly foolish.

In the Ukraine, it's hard to repel the Russian insurgents, because America under this President has done similar things elsewhere. It removes moral authority. And gives the upper-hand to guys like Putin who has more to gain from disorder.

Anonymous ENthePeasant July 22, 2014 4:09 AM  

Maneuver Warfare was the child of Hans von Seeckt. He even wrote a book title of which I can't remember on combined arms, the first one to do so and much more thorough than anything done by Hart or Fuller. When he became Chief of Staff he conducted free form exercises to prove his concepts. The main point was hardly glory in battle. The problem has always been top down leadership. French Methodical Battle, which the US has adopted and can't really shake, doesn't allow for initiative. It's based on adhering to the plan unto death. The constant problems of leaders attacking objectives they know are either undefended or useless was dealt with in MW by encouraging a commanders recon to establish the condition of the objective and allow him to operate on the basis of commanders intent. If commanders assigned objective is empty there's no sense in wasting resources to attack it. If the commander knows the general plan and intent of two levels of command above him he can by change his objective without permission as long as it assists a higher commanders objective. The Wehrmacht was known for it's highly successful counter attacks and there success was based the commanders ability to mount the attacks without massive planning from higher staffs. I have all these books on the shelf out there but haven't looked at them in ten years. Good to see you're on this VD. The Basis of 4th GW was pretty much Martin van Creveld and his books "Transformation of War" and "The Rise and Decline of the State". If you're serious about this VD I recommend you read those books. MVC is one of those men who I never argue with. When he talks I listen with all my senses. He's out of favor with many because he refused to Kow Tow to the notion that women can fight wars as well as men. He lost his job/retired at Hebrew University because of his views on women. I spoke with him about Iraq and in less than fifty words he explained how it would play out right down to an Extremist Sunni takeover shortly after the US pulled out. He saw it divided up and a terrible waste of resources to try and make good Democrats out Sunnis.

Blogger Jmac July 22, 2014 4:12 AM  

The author, Antulio Echevarria, now editor of Parameters, does use some sloppy reasoning. He doesn't understand the significance of Westphalia, and his monograph (written in 2005) seems dated by events in the last decade.

I think he does mention the four generations of warfare in the summary, and he quotes Hammes' definition, but doesn't elaborate on why 4th gen is a myth, just that it was/is constantly evolving.

Anonymous ENthePeasant July 22, 2014 4:19 AM  

"It removes moral authority. And gives the upper-hand to guys like Putin"

Good job, Jaime. Moral Authority in war is easy to lose and hard to get back. The US insisted that breaking off a part of Serbia (Kosovo) was just swell. It's never mentioned in our press but has mentioned dozens of times that he wants to know why it's OK for Kosovo but not Crimea?

Anonymous ENthePeasant July 22, 2014 4:23 AM  

"He doesn't understand the significance of Westphalia, and his monograph (written in 2005) seems dated by events in the last decade."

At the time no one believed he believed what he was saying. It's likely he did it for the Joint Chiefs as 4th GW was seen by by most anyone above the rank of Major as seriously undermining the General Officers Club

Anonymous zen0 July 22, 2014 4:26 AM  

I wondered what Dr. Antulio J. Echevarria, II 's motivation was, for him to resort to rhetorical flim flam so openly, and Lind's response seems to answer that question.

Blogger Michael Maier July 22, 2014 4:33 AM  

Vox, so Is this part of a general trend in the media you've noticed?

I could see a concerted media effort for 4GW getting belittled to deter its use against the US Federal Leviathan.

Though it's far too late now. Christopher Dorner in CA showed the machine's utter vulnerability, and he wasn't even imaginative.

Anonymous ENthePeasant July 22, 2014 4:47 AM  

"Christopher Dorner in CA showed the machine's utter vulnerability, and he wasn't even imaginative."

Very intuitive comment. Whether or not you believe Cleven Bundy was right or wrong what you have to take from it is a few rag tag Americans with dubious training and a mix of small arms basically destroyed the credibility of the US government to apply force. Cops love to tell you, "I'm going home at the end of the day". Dorner showed them that this doesn't have to be a given and they shit themselves shooting up old ladies and whatever else that made them affeard and smell bad. And that's just one nut job who wasn't all that smart. Call me crazy but I'm pretty sure one of Obama's big plans is to get himself some tatted up bangers to take care of Bundy and the like. He's probably very aware he's really short on men to do his bidding... but that will go to Moral Authority and once he loses that his bangers will lose the right to exist along with his government. Interesting times if I wasn't fat, old and crippled.

Anonymous rho July 22, 2014 4:49 AM  

1) You're the angry one.

2) Why?

4GW is old news; it's why we're in Afghanistan/Iraq. I read this shit in the Bush admin. Why are you so gung ho on it now?

Anonymous ENthePeasant July 22, 2014 4:54 AM  

"4GW is old news; it's why we're in Afghanistan/Iraq."

WRONG!!! Not one of the original creators of the 4th GW concept thought Iraq and Afghanistan were good ideas. There was an attempt to coopt the term but those attempts were widely rebuked. It's a great time to pay attention to it because the notion of the state is just about dead and the Cartels and other entities will soon be replacing federal authority all over the world, to include the US and Europe.

Anonymous rho July 22, 2014 4:57 AM  

WRONG!!! Not one of the original creators of the 4th GW concept thought Iraq and Afghanistan were good ideas.

My mistake. At no point has any 4GW proponent supported Afghani/Iraqi independence.

Anonymous ENthePeasant July 22, 2014 5:09 AM  

"My mistake. At no point has any 4GW proponent supported Afghani/Iraqi independence."

First you need to understand what 4th GW is and then we can talk. I'm sure some of them supported Iraq/Afghan independence as long as they fought for it and we stayed out of it. There was never anything for the US to win or accomplish there.

Blogger Jamie-R July 22, 2014 5:12 AM  

The US insisted that breaking off a part of Serbia (Kosovo) was just swell.

It's hard to maintain something is a certain state when its tribe resembles another, Serbia should have ethnically cleansed it prior to the mentality of today if it was to keep it. Anyone trying to settle in Australia without our consent is turned away, we have no illegals or for a better term 'Agitating Anti-Australians' now under a conservative PM. The old canard of liberty requires eternal vigilance and yada yada but it's not pursued much. I can't believe what you guys have going down on your border. It's national suicide. Either you have borders and define yourself as an English-speaking nation with an English constitution or not. The Left always uses Nazism as its squealing response, but the death of nationalism is the death of nations, which is bad news for the ones in the world that actually work really well.

Anonymous rho July 22, 2014 5:14 AM  

First you need to understand what 4th GW is and then we can talk.

Asymmetric warfare is not that complicated.

I don't follow VD's post. He's clearly angry; why? I assume he has a solution: what is it?

Anonymous zen0 July 22, 2014 5:20 AM  

@ rho

1) You're the angry one.

2) Why?

4GW is old news; it's why we're in Afghanistan/Iraq. I read this shit in the Bush admin. Why are you so gung ho on it now?


Just for future reference, the post is about False Rhetoric, not for or against 4GW theory.

Anonymous VD July 22, 2014 5:31 AM  

Cops love to tell you, "I'm going home at the end of the day".

"See you there", said the Lacedaemonians.

Anonymous Carlotta July 22, 2014 5:42 AM  

Quick question.
Once you have identified and finalized your list, will you be providing a counterpoint list for debating or engaging this type of opponent?

I ask because this, as you said, is applicable across many spectrums. However it is the proper approach to engagement, once identified, that I am weakest in and yet have to teach.

Blogger Jew613 July 22, 2014 6:07 AM  

ENThePeasant, I believe Martin van Creveld is still a professor, though now at Tel Aviv U.

Anonymous VD July 22, 2014 6:24 AM  

Once you have identified and finalized your list, will you be providing a counterpoint list for debating or engaging this type of opponent?

I don't see why not. Although in general, the answer to all of these strategies is to refuse to get distracted and push relentlessly for the truth. That's always the key, to push for the truth.

Look at how Scalzi constantly bobbed, ducked, railed, redefined, showed a hint of leg, and tried to misdirect after I called him out on his fraudulent traffic numbers. All I had to do was keep repeating: what are your Google pageviews? Why don't you put up a public site meter?

Of course, I had access to his traffic data going back to 2008, so I knew he was lying. But I knew he was lying even before that.

Anonymous aero July 22, 2014 6:57 AM  

The art of BS has a new name. FFR
Six steps in how to BS the MPAI crowd

Blogger njartist July 22, 2014 7:33 AM  

Tangential to your 4th Generation topic: there is now 5th generation warfare.

Anonymous VD July 22, 2014 7:43 AM  

I read the article and I see no difference between 4GW and what he's describing. Using bioweapons or nanoweapons doesn't intrinsically change anything in the way that a state actor vs a non-state actor does. I think someone is just trying to coin a term for no valid reason.

One thing I haven't seen the 4GW theoreticians stress is the way 4GW is the logical and inevitable consequence of the WWII-era concept of total war. Once the state started bombing civilians, that's what a) made them fair game as targets for non-state actors and b) removed any incentive for the civilian non-state actors to abide by the rules of war.

It's the air power people who are arguably the most to blame for legitimizing terrorism.

Anonymous jack July 22, 2014 7:58 AM  

Since links were mention along with Google I would like to mention an search site, like Google, but unlike Google, which claims to do fast, fast searches without hording your information for the the 3 letter agencies.

DuckDuckgo.com

enjoy...

Anonymous Salt July 22, 2014 8:16 AM  

State v Non-State actors is as ancient as Spartacus. The rules of war only apply to those who subscribe; normally the principle players.

In the film The Patriot, Cornwallis is shown bringing up the targeting of officers as violating the rules of war. Officers are needed as to curb the passions of the men, keep order. Gibson replied that if the British were going to keep targeting non-combatants, officers would continue to be the first to be targeted.

Nothing new to 4GW itself, only the means have improved. What is new, in a sense, is that the principle players are State v Non-State actors.

Anonymous allyn71 July 22, 2014 8:28 AM  

Something I have been thinking about lately as it becomes obvious that non-state actors are multiplying and thriving. What is the role of the internet in all this? There was a great period of decentralization and reorganization following the invention and distribution of the Gutenberg printing press.

Similarly, it seems across the world old decadent institutions are collapsing under their own weight when faced with challenges from seemingly undersized foes.

Perhaps information sharing is the winnowing fire that gets rid of the old and ushers in the new?

The rhetoric of the established systems against these challenges seem to follow the pattern Vox has described above: all hat, no cattle.

Anonymous MendoScot July 22, 2014 8:29 AM  

Vox, aren't 2 and 6 (and arguably 5) just specific cases of ad hominem, or are you trying to draw a distinction here that I'm missing?

Anonymous Stilicho July 22, 2014 8:35 AM  

I've named the elements of this pattern the Facets of False Rhetoric.

Rabbit's Rules of Order

Blogger Jason Roberts July 22, 2014 8:37 AM  

Don't forget the point about when they honestly try to address your argument and they don't understand it, they hide their ignorance by claiming the argument doesn't make sense and will usually use the phrase "whatever that means."

Anonymous Stilicho July 22, 2014 8:43 AM  

Anyone trying to settle in Australia without our consent is turned away

Aren't you all Waltzing Ming Li these days instead of Mathilda?

Anonymous Stilicho July 22, 2014 8:45 AM  

Second Law: If I can imagine it, it must be assumed true. If you can't conclusively prove it, it must be assumed false.

What's the purpose of this rhetorical tool? Just to employ it the way the left does?

Anonymous Daniel July 22, 2014 8:56 AM  

There may be two sides to every story, but there is only one story. Although it is not necessarily true that one or both sides is deceitful in their position, there's a darn good chance that at least one of them is. So much of life is a conflict between the minority dedicated to the impossible-to-see-perfectly ideal form and the mass followers of the false form.

The big dream is this: If only those few remaining observers would just shut their eyes, everyone would be happy in their own imaginations...or-more likely--someone else's.

OpenID bc64a9f8-765e-11e3-8683-000bcdcb2996 July 22, 2014 9:02 AM  

Why do Vox's (Three) Laws of Critical Dynamics strangely map the arguments from a child "justifying" a pony (or "free" car)?
CaptDMO

Blogger intuitivereason July 22, 2014 9:11 AM  

>Aren't you all Waltzing Ming Li these days instead of Mathilda?

Not really, although there are parts of the big cities where you might get that impression. That said, the batch of immigration since the 1970's, when we upended the social means for cultural integration and went for multiple unreformed cultures instead, is coming home to roost. The existing tension is what is making it politic to close the doors.

Anonymous the bandit July 22, 2014 9:37 AM  

1) You're the angry one.
2) Why?


What's funny is, at first I thought you were offering suggestions #7 & #8 for Vox's list.

7. It tends to declare that the other side seems angry for some undetermined reason, or is otherwise acting out of some emotional lack of fulfillment.

8. It questions why the issue should even be worthy of discussion, or declares that it is pointless to discuss the issue at the present time because events have moved beyond discussion.

Anonymous TJIC July 22, 2014 9:59 AM  

@Myrddin:
> Each of these facets is a form of avoidance. Don't mention, disqualify, strawman -- these are all variations on "don't engage."

So, perhaps, at a meta-level, Antulio Echevarria DOES believe in maneuver warfare. (oh snap!)

Over twenty years ago when I was in ROTC I really nerded out and after reading Clausewitz and Jomini, started getting some masters theses from the various US War Colleges. Details are quite fuzzy at this remove, but I remember being stunning underwhelmed by the lack of rigor and low quality of thought: these things often read like a 102 IQ police captain on the nightly news explaining that the suspect was fleeing "at a high rate of speed", and piling inanity upon unwarranted juxtaposition upon unsupported assertion.

We are lead by morons. And worse than that, we are lead by morons who do not even have the mental discipline to think as clearly as possible given their limited IQs. Intelligence is a gift, but crisp thinking is a learned skill, and most folks lack it.

Anonymous VD July 22, 2014 10:04 AM  

Vox, aren't 2 and 6 (and arguably 5) just specific cases of ad hominem, or are you trying to draw a distinction here that I'm missing?

Yes, that's the point. These specific cases of ad hominem show up regularly. It's going in a level of detail deeper than simply noting that the critic engages in ad hom, but a specific type of ad hom.

It is very different to say someone presenting an argument is dangerous than to say he is disqualified for lack of credentials or failing to account for certain historical information, even though both are ad hom attacks. So is "because you're a stupid poopyhead" but one seldom sees that in these debates.

Anonymous RedJack July 22, 2014 10:30 AM  

VD; It's the air power people who are arguably the most to blame for legitimizing terrorism.


Dresden, London, and the two atomic bombs in Japan ended the idea of leaving civilians alone in war (not that it was very possible anyway, look at Sherman). To maintain a high level of industrial war, you need to transform the society to a war footing. So in effect (which was Bomber Command's reasoning) the factory worker is on the front lines and as dangerous a foe as the front line troops. More so in fact.


As an aside, 4GW always seemed to me a return to 1GW. War goes in cycles, and it appears we are heading for a smaller, but more bloody form again after the grand armies marching across Europe.

Anonymous Logo July 22, 2014 10:34 AM  

Stilicho: What's the purpose of this rhetorical tool? Just to employ it the way the left does?

According to Google, Vox's second law was first articulated in this post, where he refers to its employment as a deplorable rhetorical tactic on the part of a reviewer trashing Nicholas Wade's A TROUBLESOME INHERITANCE.

It does seem odd to include a statement presumed erroneous in a list of statements promoted as being true. I assume #2 is meant ironically, but it seems awkward sandwiched into a list of unironic rules, and might be unironically misinterpreted.

Anonymous cheddarman July 22, 2014 10:37 AM  

"One thing I haven't seen the 4GW theoreticians stress is the way 4GW is the logical and inevitable consequence of the WWII-era concept of total war. Once the state started bombing civilians, that's what a) made them fair game as targets for non-state actors and b) removed any incentive for the civilian non-state actors to abide by the rules of war." - Vox

Vox, I believe Bill Lind mentioned this in his series of posts "on War." I used to read it at Global Guerrillas website. He said that indiscriminate use of air power causes high civilian casualties, and cause them to strike back at the state by asymmetric means such as suicide bombings. There were about 200 essays, so he covered a lot of ground. He should distill all of that into a book, IMO.




Anonymous Anonymous July 22, 2014 10:40 AM  


Signore Day,

You ommitted the anti-2A cult from your list, they really deserve to be included (if not used as a primary exemplar) since they routinely use #s 3-6 when confronting pro-2A opponents. But given the decided Leftist orientation of said cult it's not surprising it'd adhere to the Left's doctrine. And btw, GW's not all that effective against an enemy whose primary focus is the complete destruction of its opposition & considers the feelings/opinions/loyalties of the indigenous population to be irrelevant as they'll either be enslaved or exterminated post-conflict per Stirling's Draka.


Cassandra (of Troy)


Anonymous Meh July 22, 2014 10:43 AM  

Over twenty years ago when I was in ROTC I really nerded out and after reading Clausewitz and Jomini, started getting some masters theses from the various US War Colleges. Details are quite fuzzy at this remove, but I remember being stunning underwhelmed by the lack of rigor and low quality of thought

Eh, there are some good ones too. The problem is that "war college" is just another box for an officer to check on the way up. The actual quality of what they produce while there is not regarded as very important.

Anonymous JI July 22, 2014 10:44 AM  

I'm guessing that Echevarria wants to avoid stepping on toes in the current Army leadership which made up of Obama-friendly appointees. Echevarria wants a pension just as much as the next person, after all.

Anonymous VD July 22, 2014 10:47 AM  

He should distill all of that into a book, IMO.

You don't say....

Anonymous VD July 22, 2014 10:51 AM  

As an aside, 4GW always seemed to me a return to 1GW.

That would be 0GW, I believe. I see 4GW as an adaptation of the Eastern Way of War, to use VDH's term, as he describes the Western Way of War in CARNAGE AND CULTURE.

Anonymous cheddarman July 22, 2014 10:52 AM  

I just checked out the global guerrillas web site, the web master John Robb almost shut it down a while back, but it is up and running again and looks great. An excellent resource for anyone interested in the topic of 4th generation war.

They link to a number of sites including "small wars journal" and it would be interesting to see how the concept of 4th gen war has been fleshed out over the last couple of years

Anonymous Stilicho July 22, 2014 10:57 AM  

You don't say....

Awesome. Let me know if/when you want reviewers.

It does seem odd to include a statement presumed erroneous in a list of statements promoted as being true. I assume #2 is meant ironically, but it seems awkward sandwiched into a list of unironic rules, and might be unironically misinterpreted.

Hence, my question. It avoids confusion and wasted speculation to ask the author who typically has a good reason for such things.

Anonymous Mike M. July 22, 2014 11:01 AM  

Asymmetric warfare has been going on for a LONG time. As in most of recorded history. The real key is figuring out how to use your strengths against the opponent's weakness, and how to keep him from attacking your vulnerabilities.

Anonymous The other skeptic July 22, 2014 11:03 AM  

Just for future reference, the post is about False Rhetoric, not for or against 4GW theory.

I don't think it is solely about False Rhetoric.

Having just completed QM, A Man Disrupted, I think there is more to it than just being about False Rhetoric, because I think Vox carefully selects his examples.

A very interesting post and I wonder why that tool and those he is speaking for want to de-legitimize the concept of 4GW?

What is the next step?

Anonymous Stilicho July 22, 2014 11:12 AM  

I wonder why that tool and those he is speaking for want to de-legitimize the concept of 4GW?

Because they expect it to be used against them, here and abroad, and, ironically, one of the primary aims of 4GW is to attack the enemy's moral foundations. Hence, de-legitimizing 4GW helps undermine the moral basis of an opponent employing it. Have you noticed how everyone opposing D.C. (here and abroad) is almost always characterized as a "terrorist" these days? Islamic, economic, domestic, home-grown, right-wing, tea-party, religious, etc. They have a modifier available for every potential threat to the current power structure.

Anonymous The other skeptic July 22, 2014 11:28 AM  

Is organizing Black Expos a form of 4GW?

Blogger Krul July 22, 2014 11:37 AM  

Re: FOURTH-GENERATION WAR AND OTHER MYTHS

Moreover, the types of high-technology that 4GW’s proponents envisioned terrorists using includes such Wunderwaffe as directed energy weapons and robotics, rather than the cell phones and internet that terrorists actually use today.

Echevarria brings up the 4GW theorists' alleged preoccupation with futuristic "high-tech 'wonder' weapons" a few times, as though this discredited 4GW. No examples provided, of course.

I'd say this is an example of number 3. Possibly 4 and 5 as well, although I don't know the extent to which 4GW theorists really did base their theory on speculation about future technology. Not much, I'm guessing.

Moreover, from the point of view of a theorist in the 1980s, current internet and smartphone capabilities are high-tech and futuristic. But that's just me being pedantic.

Blogger Quadko July 22, 2014 11:50 AM  

I wonder if this pattern is also the knee-jerk reaction of an established position to a challenger. In each example, right or wrong, within their context the reactor thinks they are an expert with an accepted position. The first lazy reaction of such an expert is a form of appeal to authority, disqualification of the challenger, and absolute refusal to engage - after all, great experts (whether legends in their own mind or actual experts) don't waste time dealing with hoi poloi rifraf and their kooky ideas.

Sadly for them, of course, most new knowledge and intellectual course corrections come via this path, and such "experts" end up appearing the fool when they miss something real.

It might be of academic interest to look at initial responses to paradigm challenges. Plate tectonics, big bang theory, DNA, and so forth. Such investigation probably should look at unsuccessful challenges as well - do "real experts" whom we consider correct brush off crazy theories using the same False Rhetoric methods? Or are the Facets of False Rhetoric only employed once the threat to the foundation of knowledge is felt? To ride a paradigm shift requires admitting that one has been wrong, and often comes with a period of depression; False Rhetoric could easily be the tools of denial and self-protection.

Very interesting concept, VD! Thanks for pointing it out and developing it. It'll keep me thinking for a while, and I'm interested to see how it grows.

Anonymous Roundtine July 22, 2014 11:52 AM  

Once you believe the State cannot maintain its monopoly on violence, for good or ill, you will begin thinking and planning for the post-State world. I don't like thinking about what that world looks like, imagine how the progressive mind would view it, they need to put it as far out of mind as possible.

Anonymous Roundtine July 22, 2014 12:04 PM  

Echevarria brings up the 4GW theorists' alleged preoccupation with futuristic "high-tech 'wonder' weapons" a few time

This is far from my field of expertise, but to me a "wonder weapon" in 4G is anything that is an exponential force multiplier, with force being able to be applied not only in a military direction. 9/11 was a "wonder" as 19 guys in 4 planes brought America to its knees. Odds are still very small of someone stealing an A-10 Warthog and terrorizing a major urban center, but could hack into an armed drone? How much more attractive is a car bomb with driverless software? I don't see any signs that the individual and small group's ability to launch increasingly large attacks is being reduced. Financial markets too are increasingly driven by algorithm, not armies of traders.

Anonymous Logo July 22, 2014 12:09 PM  

If anyone has any insights into this, I'd be interested in hearing them.

I also noticed the patterns of parlance you describe, and they've long been a guide to me in determining which side of an argument is most likely in the right. It's what first made me consider the global warming skeptics more reliable than the alarmists, and that historians and philosophers of science were more reliable than scientists.

Yet "Facets of False Rhetoric" is itself too ambiguous, I think. "Errors of Ambiguous Argumentation" seems more precise to me, as the errors of the excerpts you present stem primarily from a lack of precision.

Take, for example, the describing of an idea as "bankrupt", having "several fundamental flaws", or "a number of profound and incurable flaws". This takes words that people already have abstract negative associations with, and applies them to an idea.

Now this is licit when there's sufficient context to allow one to figure out what exact qualities an idea would have to exhibit for the writer to consider it "bankrupt", or what exact "flaws" such an idea would have, and how exactly one would reckon them as being "fundamental" or "incurable." Yet no such context is offered.

Rather, the value-judgements associated with the words are called to mind in a vague, ambiguous, airy sort of manner. A feeling then detached from any coherent conception of reality is conjured, a kind of specter of thought, as in, "bankrupt," that's bad, isn't it? Like financial bankruptcy, moral bankruptcy, etc. Bad, bad things, with a bad, bad sense about them.

What the exact pattern of qualities an idea has to exhibit, in order for the writer to consider it "bankrupt", he does not say. That would, after all, give us a set of reproducible criteria, that we could then apply, both to the idea he's criticizing, and to other ideas, some of which we already know, through experience, to be true or false. This would allow us to determine whether or not the writer's criteria of "bankruptcy" was a reliable indicator of an idea's truth or falsity.

He doesn't give us any such criteria. When people don't do that, but still try to use language that implies such-and-such a thing is bad in some way, it's almost always because their idea of what's good or bad doesn't line up with what's true and false. Their value judgements can't be properly reckoned as corresponding to reality.

So of course, they abandon all reckoning, and just throw these negative words out there, hoping your mind will automatically apply the negative value you already associate with the words to the idea they've been set beside.

This technique, which I like to call value-casting, and I have long noticed it is a prime weapon in the arsenal of ambiguators. The more someone uses it, the more likely he's full of it. Ambiguity + value-casting = bullshit, more often than not.

Anonymous Stilicho July 22, 2014 12:25 PM  

Logo, I'd say that these "facets" are primarily indications of the weakness of the position of the one using them. The reasons they use may vary from a need for ambiguity to the emotional incontinence of the user, but underlying it all is a need to compensate or cover for the weakness.

Blogger ScuzzaMan July 22, 2014 12:35 PM  

Gary North always says "You cant beat something with nothing."

But still, people try.

A good friend of mine has another relevant comment, which he shared with me when I asked him about King David, and how a youth of such stalwart faith could become such a faithless king. He said:

"Sin makes you stupid."

He elaborated to the effect that, having made the first mistake, we keep doubling down trying to avoid the consequences rather than repent of it. It is fundamentally a function of pride. All the hand-waving and shucking and jiving you describe is a testament to the refusal to admit to error (or, too often, even the possibility of error).

Where you might find this useful in constructing your pithy precis on argumentum ex nihilo, is that these rhetorical tactics are not only a reliable indicator of error, but of the knowledge of error. People who argue like this KNOW they have no case.

Blogger ScuzzaMan July 22, 2014 12:43 PM  

"Asymmetric warfare has been going on for a LONG time. As in most of recorded history. The real key is figuring out how to use your strengths against the opponent's weakness, and how to keep him from attacking your vulnerabilities."

You need to read more on the subject. There is far more to it than asymmetry.

Indeed, the major contribution of 4GW theory to understanding modern conflicts is the use of one's weaknesses against the strengths of your enemy ...

Blogger rycamor July 22, 2014 1:00 PM  

Another bullet point that belongs in there:

It portrays a sense of outrage that the other side would even have the gall to espouse such a position. It's the old "affront to all right-thinking people" tactic.

Anonymous Logo July 22, 2014 1:16 PM  

Stilicho, yes, very true. My point is that the facets are all rooted innately in ambiguity, and that the ambiguity is used as a stage for deception, using loaded words to try and trick people into thinking badly of an idea, without ever demonstrating to any degree of definition that there is anything bad about it, by any exact standard.

But you're right, that this is a sign that the ambiguator's position is a false one. Certain proof is unambiguously correct, and is the strongest weapon one can wield in an argument. If someone can offer certain proof in an argument, he will generally do so.

A person whose position is false can't do so, by necessity. But there's some reason he still holds that position, either because it benefits him, or he's incapable of accepting its falsity. So he has to resort to arguing for his position with a level of ambiguity that obscures its falsehood. So too will such a man attack any opposing position using the same level of ambiguity, and resorting to deceptions that try to get people to think ambiguously.

Thus unambiguity is the natural companion of truth, and ambiguity the natural companion of lies. This is how we can know that the arguments that utilize the facets are most likely false.

Anonymous Rick W July 22, 2014 1:35 PM  

Re; Quadko:

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross described a pattern of 5 stages of grief - anger, denial, bargaining, depression, acceptance.

Could these tactics of False Rhetoric be symptom of an emotional pattern when someone hears a challenge to an established position ?

You mentioned denial and depression. Others have mentioned anger. Are the challenged feeling grief ?

Blogger ScuzzaMan July 22, 2014 1:36 PM  

"This is how we can know that the arguments that utilize the facets are most likely false."

Thus might Vox distil the wisdom of Logo:

"Facets, or facts: pick one."

Anonymous Stilicho July 22, 2014 2:01 PM  

My point is that the facets are all rooted innately in ambiguity, and that the ambiguity is used as a stage for deception, using loaded words to try and trick people into thinking badly of an idea, without ever demonstrating to any degree of definition that there is anything bad about it, by any exact standard.

Certainly. Achieving ambiguity can be considered a victory when the facts are against you. Use of loaded terms to describe (and undermine) your opponent and/or his position is a bonus at that point.

Blogger Tom Kratman July 22, 2014 2:39 PM  

"One thing I haven't seen the 4GW theoreticians stress is the way 4GW is the logical and inevitable consequence of the WWII-era concept of total war. "

Sort of, but maybe not the way you mean. Try this: 4GW is the logical and inevitable consequence of forgetting how to do, or being unwlling to engage in, 1GW, which consisted of, "If you fuck with us, we will first beat you in the field, then occupy your land. We will exterminate you down to the tiniest mewling brat sucking at his mother's tit. That is, we'll exterminate you except for comely young females who will sold as slaves to be whores. And then we'll destroy any physical evidence of your civilization, spend considerable effort in hunting down and destroying literary evidence of your civilization, invent a new body of literature to present you as irredeemably evil, and just because we believe in being thorough, we'll poison your land."

In effect, The Great War and WW II showed much and maybe most of that. The reaction to it put 1GW out of contemplation, which opened up 4GW to people who would probably be deterred by 1GW.

Anonymous Stilicho July 22, 2014 2:43 PM  

Scipio ad portos!

Anonymous Stilicho July 22, 2014 2:44 PM  

p.s. Mohamed Ouled Nail? Hilarious! BZ!

Anonymous RedJack July 22, 2014 2:48 PM  

One of the rather interesting things about this fad of 4GW, is that the other side has yet to really start hitting us.

I mean one mad cop could tie up California for days. A few johnny jihadis around the country could have this places locked down.

It seems that they (the muslim groups) do have a moral code. One that they are hesitant to break, yet one we break often with random drone strikes. Don't kill non combatants.

Blogger Tom Kratman July 22, 2014 2:48 PM  

"Over twenty years ago when I was in ROTC I really nerded out and after reading Clausewitz and Jomini, started getting some masters theses from the various US War Colleges."

The line break seemed to me to come after WW II. I once spent an annoying afternoon comparing post war Infantry, Armor, Artillery, and similar mags to articles published in the pre-war Infantry Journal and Field Artillery Journal (which joined to become Combat Forces Journal which became AUSA's Army Magazine). No comparison whatsoever. The subject matter of the post war crap was almost always trivial. They were almost always poorly written. And there just wasn't a lot of thought or willingness to take risks. Before the war, none of that was true.

Blogger Tom Kratman July 22, 2014 2:48 PM  

You know about the Ouled Nail, eh?

Anonymous RedJack July 22, 2014 2:49 PM  

Mr Kratman,

You nailed it.

Blogger Tom Kratman July 22, 2014 2:51 PM  

The other way to look at that is that 1GW is the solution to 4GW.

Blogger Quadko July 22, 2014 3:05 PM  

RickW: Are the challenged feeling grief ?

Interesting. I was thinking more in the threat of loss that eventually would lead to 'grief' or similar experience reacting to being wrong, but even the challenge to a closely held belief can start that experience. I think it is especially true regarding received knowledge rather than experientialy acquired knowledge - if you don't know why it is true, and you always believed it to be true since being taught it, you have no intellectual defense against anyone who doesn't believe it is true. The only resorts are to ignore, disqualify, appeal to authority, and apply ad hominem attacks on the one hand, or capitulation on the other.

(And, of course, the stages of grief are a rough pattern and guideline, not a strict rule... hopefully goes without saying... he said. :P)

Anonymous Stilicho July 22, 2014 3:09 PM  

And there just wasn't a lot of thought or willingness to take risks. Before the war, none of that was true.

The degree of bureaucratization explains a good bit of that. The warfighters came home and found that the bureaucrats and contractors were in charge. Permanently. The '47 Act merely confirmed the reality.

You know about the Ouled Nail, eh?

Naturally. I'm a Marine.

Anonymous Logo July 22, 2014 3:16 PM  

Stilicho: Achieving ambiguity can be considered a victory when the facts are against you. Use of loaded terms to describe (and undermine) your opponent and/or his position is a bonus at that point.

Thinking about it, you're right. The persistent ambiguity in argumentation is the problem, and the real sign that the arguer's position is false. The abuse of loaded words is just one feature such ambiguous arguments commonly possess.

Anonymous Bernard Brandt July 22, 2014 3:19 PM  

Several random thoughts:

1. Any sufficiently advanced intelligence is indistinguishable from insanity. Which would explain Yog Sothoth, Cthulhu, and the rest of the Elder Gods. Perhaps the impetus in the increased intelligence of so called human beings is for the purpose of creating a Fifth Column to let Them in.

2. On a slightly more serious note, 4GW posits that nonstate actors are using all social media, and economic systems, to convince strategic leaders that their goals are impossible or too costly to achieve. Is this not precisely what Moldbug's Cathedral has been attempting to do to the American public?

3. If the answer to conjecture #2 is correct, then it would be obvious that the Cathedral would not be interested in having its tactics or strategy revealed. Send a third-stage Guild Navigator, er, have a member of the Cathedral do a hit piece on the theory of 4GW. There's nothing to see here. Move along.

4. The fact that Echevarria's hit piece is so replete with straw men, non sequitur, begging the question, and ad hominem is an indication, not of the strength of the Cathedral, but of its decadence and weakness.

P.S., I really enjoy your entries here, Mr. Kratman.

Blogger Tom Kratman July 22, 2014 3:25 PM  

I calls 'em like I seez 'em.

Thanks.

Anonymous Hunsdon July 22, 2014 3:32 PM  

@ Tom Kratman.

Try this: 4GW is the logical and inevitable consequence of forgetting how to do, or being unwlling to engage in, 1GW

Hunsdon said: Who now remembers the Amalekites?

Blogger Tom Kratman July 22, 2014 3:45 PM  

Joel Rosenberg, but he's passed on.

Anonymous Don July 22, 2014 4:09 PM  

Tom - Did Joel ever write about the Amalekites? I've read a bunch of his stuff but I don't remember anything about them.

Anonymous Feh July 22, 2014 4:16 PM  

@ Bernard Brandt,

Or there could be no conspiracy, and Antulio is just an intellectually dishonest Army careerist.

I keep saying... and the comment keeps getting eaten... that the Army hates 4GW because it undermines the case for what they really want to buy and use -- large mechanized forces.

Anonymous VD July 22, 2014 4:44 PM  

The other way to look at that is that 1GW is the solution to 4GW.

No, because that's not 1GW in 4GW parlance. The generations aren't intended to describe the complete history of warfare, merely the generations of MODERN war since the dawn of the modern state system in 1648 and the state-claimed monopoly on warfare. Hence: "Previously, many different entities had fought wars—families, tribes, religions, cities, business enterprises—using many different means, not just armies and navies." I believe 0GW would be a reasonable appellation.

"The First Generation of Modern War, war of line-and-column tactics, where battles were formal and the battlefield was orderly, ran roughly from 1648 to 1860. The relevance of the First Generation springs from the fact that the battlefield of order created a military culture of order. Most of the things that distinguish military from civilian—uniforms, saluting, careful gradations of
rank—were products of the First Generation and were intended to reinforce the culture of order.
business enterprises—using many different means."

My impression is that the 4GW theoreticians are making smaller claims than most people tend to think. And they would essentially agree with Tom in that many of the tactics we're seeing now are a return to 0GW.

Blogger Tom Kratman July 22, 2014 4:57 PM  

Don, Uncle Shimon had a thing for Amelek.

Blogger Tom Kratman July 22, 2014 5:05 PM  

I used Echevarria's "In brief, the theory holds that warfare has evolved through four
generations: 1) the use of massed manpower" which way predates Westphalia, as opposed to Lind who put 1GW about in Echevarria's 2GW. (And I'm pretty sure that somewhere there's some 4GW enthusiast who uses 1GW as Echevarria did.)

Mox nix, though; change 1 to 0 and it works anyway. Moreover, the gravimen of the thing still holds up: 4GW is a response not to the west's ruthlessness in the global wars, but to the west's weakness, lack of ruthlessness, and lack of desire to survive that arose from those wars. I _think_.

Anonymous VD July 22, 2014 5:11 PM  

I used Echevarria's "In brief, the theory holds that warfare has evolved through four
generations: 1) the use of massed manpower" which way predates Westphalia, as opposed to Lind who put 1GW about in Echevarria's 2GW.


And there would be the problem. Echevarria quite clearly didn't read the stuff he was purporting to criticize very closely. I mean, that's all right in the articles he's citing! If you're the CRITIC, you don't get to define the stuff you're criticizing. It's like seeing a defensive player in the NFL insisting that he gets to hike the ball.

No, dude, you don't. You really don't!

Anonymous ENthePeasant July 22, 2014 5:24 PM  

There's a couple of things here that need to be understood about generations of war. 4th GW was very common prior to Westphalia and that's why it's so important in the 4th GW cannon. The 30 years war was chaos, plus disease, weak central governments, and non state players by the hundreds. The other is nukes.

It's very hard to beat someone in a conventional war where it comes down to your opponent causing you to lose even though they lost. I've read enough of the Soviet archives to know that this is exactly what they planned. They were certain they could beat us easily in Europe for a short time but their production and transportation system was broken during the best of times. So they did intent to use Nukes early and often figuring if they didn't we would screwing their best looking women and leaving them in total poverty... which kind of happened without war. And we also intended to use nuke in Europe, allies be damned. So the benefits of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd GW were nonexistent. It came down to using surrogates.

A large factor beyond nukes in giving 4th GW its rebirth is the decline of central governments, first England and then the other colonial powers. The US has literally has held up the West since the end of the two foolish and highly destructive World Wars. But it couldn't last forever, the cost to one country of maintaining the West would (and has) eventually eroded the strength and will of the US population. And I'm not talking about military strength, I mean moral strength which a weakened economy and Liberalism have destroyed for at least two generations.

One thing that irritates the hell out of me is the misunderstanding of US success in the two World Wars. The US wisely didn't come in early, we came in late when the others had punched themselves out. Since the end of WW II the US has taken over the role of the decrepit Brits, constantly leading and expending resources in hopeless wars. We have managed to weaken ourselves across the board. Our weapons production couldn't touch our WW II production (only China could do that now). Most Americans are beyond military service and have no idea what it means or the cost, and the morally bankrupt now run the country. This is the perfect petri dish for growing 4th GW. Keep in mind that one purpose of 4th GW is to hollow out the state and it's ability to function, but it's also important to keep it around so as not to create more opponents for 4th GW warriors. The Cartels in Columbia went to far.

They were in the drivers seat and almost partners with the central government. But then they destroyed it and opposition arose in it's place and destroyed the Cartels. 4th GW is based on creating power and wealth out of chaos. It's problem is it can never win, only maintain a high level of chaos.

Blogger Rantor July 22, 2014 6:01 PM  

In 2007 a Marine Colonel, whose name I forgot, proposed 5th Gen War based on the ability of one very small group to unleash massive catastrophe on a country. He mentioned a war game the DOD had run with three outbreaks of smallpox modelled. Claimed that it could spread wildly and kill a third of the US population. He estimated that a similarly virulent disease could be developed and spread for a very small investment, I think less than $250,000. He pointed to the anthrax threat to the Capitol, where no one has ever been caught, as a minor example of what might be to come. Hope that smallpox vaccine I got as a child is good for something.

Anonymous Skip July 22, 2014 7:14 PM  

@ jamie r: what are you smoking? Just because muslims come here legally doesnt mean they dont hate our guts

Anonymous Hunsdon July 22, 2014 7:29 PM  

@ Tom Kratman: Noted! (Admittedly, I was using them as an example of "problem solved, problem staying solved," root and branch, nits make lice, decisive warfare.)

Anonymous Hunsdon July 22, 2014 7:37 PM  

@ ENtP: One thing that irritates the hell out of me is the misunderstanding of US success in the two World Wars. The US wisely didn't come in early, we came in late when the others had punched themselves out.

Hunsdon said: Yes, this, this, a thousand times this. We played smart in both fights, which might tarnish our amour propre but did wonders for our casualty rates.

Blogger Tom Kratman July 22, 2014 8:58 PM  

"Echevarria quite clearly didn't read the stuff he was purporting to criticize very closely."

It's not entirely clear which or whose stuff he was dumping on at any given time nor who his prime target was. As mentioned, there is likely some 4GW enthusiast, somewhere, who used those definitions. If you're going after Lind, by name, sure, you're stuck with Lind's defintions _or_ you can expressly criticize those definitions. However, the place wherefrom he pulled that quote appears to be other than Lind: Thomas X. Hammes, 4th-generation Warfare: Our Enemies Play to Their Strengths,” Armed Forces Journal, November 2004, pp. 40-44. I haven't looked at the underlying article to see if Hammes starts with the Treaty of Westphalia. But there's really no pressing reason to start there. There a quote somewhere, maybe in Gwynn Dyer's _War_, about the army of Gustavus Adolphus being the first army Alexander wouldn't have known how to command. I don't think it's true; a five (max 15) minute lecture and Big Al the psychopath would have understood it well enough. Napoleon's armies, however, would probably have been beyond him. That's really where all the big changes came in.

But back to cases, whether it's 1GW or 0GW, to begin, it seems to me very unlikely that the RIF or any other non-state or state actor that wasn't a superpower would be willing to play games with us if we'd just multiplied Leon Klinghofer or Robert Stethem (no shit, I was supposed to be on that polane) by about a million, or ten million, and killed that many.

Blogger Tom Kratman July 22, 2014 9:05 PM  

plane, not polane.

Anonymous ENthePeasant July 22, 2014 9:33 PM  

"it seems to me very unlikely that the RIF or any other non-state or state actor that wasn't a superpower would be willing to play games with us"

I'm not sure that it's a matter of them wanting to play games. We always stick our big defense dick in the middle of world problems and it spirals from there. I keep thinking of the NVA and the war they wanted, which would have been very 4th Gen with the intention of preserving the economies of both south and north. Our entry forced them back to the 3rd. But they still maintained elements which are now considered the 4th in maneuvering our civilian population away from our government (MVC/Clausewitz, the moral), which was pure Sun Tzu/Mao. The aid sent by Sweden alone was stunning, and we're not talking about arms. That level of medical supply aloud for a different kind of war. John Boyd was all over that. Where I'm going with this is I have a great appreciation for all the work done by the big heads. However, with a solid strategy (something the US always rejects except in the broadest of terms not to mention we change the strategic goal on a whim based on initial success) we might be able to come up with a 4th Gen component in which we didn't have to commit large troop numbers and destroyed Saddam by reducing his legitimacy with his own people. That's what Boyd was pushing for, an understanding of the application of power at our disposal.

We are constrained by the moral component at this time. Few Americans have the stomach for getting involved in a slaughter to achieve our strategic goals, so we can stratch that one off the list right now. You can make the case if you want Col, but it's like asking for Unicorn blood for transfusions.

This might be off putting to some here, but I believe that it's important for us to study and understand 4th GW and not because we need to help take down the Nigerian government, but because our own government is very likely to attempt 2nd GW against us.

OpenID simplytimothy July 22, 2014 10:16 PM  

I've seen this pattern at work in the American political discourse. I've seen it in the atheism discourse. I've seen it in the Theorum of Evolution by Natural Selection and Various Other Means discourse. I've seen it in the global warming discourse. I've seen it in the economic discourse. I've seen it in the EU discourse. I've even seen it in what passes for the science fiction and fantasy discourse.

Christian discourse? Me either. Curious if I am wrong.




Anonymous Lana July 22, 2014 10:16 PM  

"we might be able to come up with a 4th Gen component in which we didn't have to commit large troop numbers and destroyed Saddam by reducing his legitimacy with his own people."

I am trying to follow this conversation and I have a question. Would this not have been similar to what we did in Afghanistan with special forces in the initial stages without much of a footprint in the country? And if we'd tracked down Bin Laden, killed him and left it would have been a success. Please tell me if I've misunderstood the discussion or 4thGen warfare and I'll say no more. I was just curious.

OpenID simplytimothy July 22, 2014 10:22 PM  

Me either.

To be clear, I presume you have not seen that pattern in Christian discourse--Christian discourse is a donny-brook, but our God is not a tame lion, is He?
.








Blogger Tom Kratman July 22, 2014 10:31 PM  

Games, of course, is does not mean fun and games.

You mean because of the several armored divisions we've maintained in Israel since 1945? Or because every Arab country stocked their armies almost entirely with US arms for the last 70 years? Or because during the Cold War control of the oil was a non-factor for everyone concerned? (Trivia question: How did the Jews get their first US-made M113 Armored Personnel Carriers?) In any case, a lot of what interference there has been hasn't been entirely avoidable, and most of our approach has been benign (usually) neglect.

It's a weakness of the system, we cannot have a strategy more than 8 years running, except by fluke. We tend to substitute general intent, broad policy, and quite a lot of moral posturing, for strategy, not entirely to good effect.

Much like decision cycle theory, for which I also have little use (not no use, just little), I think the case has still to be made that 4GW is anything but a pipe dream, or a passing fantasy, or a result of a perceived weakness in resolve and lack of ruthlessness on our part, which weakness and irresolution could be overcome - indeed to a large extent the enemy is forcing us to overcome it - before we take it too seriously.

Anonymous Hunsdon July 22, 2014 11:25 PM  

@ Tom Kratman:

I think the case has still to be made that 4GW is anything but a pipe dream, or a passing fantasy, or a result of a perceived weakness in resolve and lack of ruthlessness on our part.

Hunsdon said: A weakness of resolve and a lack of ruthlessness on our part is, I would posit, at the core of most of our problems. I think that rulers throughout history----and I'm not restricting the list to Award Winning Ruthlessness Artists like, say, Genghis Khan----would regard us as a fundamentally unserious people, for our refusal to solve our problems.

Anonymous ENthePeasant July 23, 2014 1:04 AM  

"Would this not have been similar to what we did in Afghanistan with special forces in the initial stages without much of a footprint in the country? And if we'd tracked down Bin Laden, killed him and left it would have been a success"

This is one of those interesting little problems of understanding, even at the highest levels. 4th GW warfare has always been a facit of Afghan life. No one has ever been more than the Mayor of Kabul, it's chaos and factionalism... and Afghans like it that way. Even its borders are rather nebulous. It's funny going back to our initial incursion and seeing the reports. There were only about 60,000 Taliban "soldiers" ( a very lose term with Afghans on any side) and we defeated them because easily because they just melted away and it's a huge country. And I would argue that this was a great example of 4th GW, they were never really defeated, but they were wisely not about to sit out in the open where we could bomb them with smart munitions.

Iraq on the other hand was a going country with borders, a strong central government and a leader who could actually field an army at one time. But as often happens with the US we don't really understand that destroying the delicate balance of a multicultural shit hole like Iraq is easy enough... getting something back together than took decades to create is not so easy. 4th GW not only exists in my mind but the US military and political leadership specialize in creating it. Bill Lind was the first one to suggest that the US had better dig up Saddam and let him have the country back.

As for killing Bin Laden, it seems to me it mattered not. In fact it was a terrible mistake to kill him and other than some short term political gain I cannot for the life of me figure out what the end game was on that one? I can see capturing him for a trial (sorta) but at a time when Al Qaeda Leadership was in flux, and often at each others throat, it was stupid indeed to help them solidify the leadership by taking out OBL. It would have been much better to watch him movements, track his couriers and maybe even help him a little to keep the leadership in turmoil. Oh well, just an errant thought.

As for 4th GW not existing, one of the best examples are the Mexican Cartels and even better, MEND in the Nigerian river delta. The leader (Gkomo?) of that semi-fine group of thieves has kept the government off balance by destroying oil infrastructure. He's a big fan of Bill Lind and used to communicate with Jon Robb of Global Guerrillas on a regular basis, not to mention he read his stuff. Five or six years ago it wasn't uncommon, if very disconcerting, to see Gjomo in the comments section that blog explaining what he was up to and arguing for or against posts.

One thing the Russians never understood is that killing old leaders of different factions went a long way to making the Taliban Muj into a successful fighting force. Younger and much more dynamic (and often half mad) men took over after the old guys were killed and proved to be much better military leaders than their political leaders who had previously been in charge of the different factions.

It appears to me that 4th GW has not only been proven but outfits like ISIL have given us a master class in how it works. The one thing about it is that it's not a war winner in the WW II sense. That in itself isn't going to make it popular with the US army and there's some justification there but they miss the big picture. It's being used and the problem is how do you fight it without losing blood and treasure on a slow basis? it's a strategy for losers, it keeps them in the fight until the other side leaves... and often times the political solution that follows the hand washing by a central government doesn't suite the side who were using 4th GW... so they go right back to it.

Blogger Stefani Monaghan July 23, 2014 1:17 AM  

" I've named the elements of this pattern the Facets of False Rhetoric."

One ubiquitous facet that perhaps merits inclusion in your list is the attempt to claim the moral high-ground through use of loaded pejoratives. It is quite common, for example, in discussions on same-sex marriage, wherein the usual ubiquitous epithets -- homophobe, bigot -- quickly overwhelm all attempts at rational dialogue.

OpenID simplytimothy July 23, 2014 1:31 AM  

What does 4GW victory look like?

Anonymous ENthePeasant July 23, 2014 2:30 AM  

"What does 4GW victory look like?"

It looks a lot like the Cartels in Mexico and a better example is MEND in the Nigerian River Delta. They have managed to force the government in meeting many of their demands, which is some kickback on the oil wealth under their land. I'm not even sure it's one group, but they're doing a hell of a job and have cut Nigerian oil exports by 10 % or greater at times. As for the victory that's one of it's weaknesses, at some point they must transition to something beyond a Guerrilla force, and that's where there undoing comes. 4th Generation warriors are best at hollowing out the state, not destroying it, and taking payoffs for various commodities in order not to attack. I'm sure there will be many who don't quite see it that way, but so far that's how it works out.

Blogger ScuzzaMan July 23, 2014 3:27 AM  

"What does 4GW victory look like?"

Or the early years of Hamas in Gaza, where they took over provision of services previously provided by the PLO, their rivals for perceived legitimacy.

This is a factor that is consistently overlooked in 4GW discussions, including this one, now over 100 comments long: the prize is not destruction of the enemy (as Sun Tzu would have advised, the intention is to destroy his will to fight you), but the attainment of legitimacy as a governing force in the eyes of the governed.

Remember, there IS no government without the consent of the governed. The primary object of 4GW is to gain that consent.

Ironically, it is simply not true that the USA neither understands 4GW nor practices it. The CIA are past masters at it.

As Vox noted, however, the claims of proponents like Lind are far more modest than the strawmen being burned so hotly in many discussions such as this one (and the critique referenced in the OP). As a military strategist his primary point is that the US military, aka the Pentagon neither understand not practice 4GW, and are therefore losing the 4G conflicts in which they are presently embroiled.

They are losing the perception of legitimacy to people equally as violent, ruthless, and malign; some - like Boko Haram - even moreso. Just think about that for a moment. Indeed, one of the signs that you are losing a 4GW conflict is that you are producing such people, and seen to be doing so.

On the subject of ruthlessness, it is an enormous mistake to equate the squeamishness of the modern self-styled liberals with the character of our governments. Looking at the chaos and bloodshed these latter have unleashed on helpless civilian populations, or their virulent encouragement of Israel's war crimes against another helpless caged civilian population in Gaza, one has to be delusional to posit that "we" in the West have lost the ruthlessness of our forebears. See also Nagasaki and Hiroshima, as well as the Bush Doctrine of Pre-emptive Nuclear "Defense". Such escalations in rhetorical and policy stances directly contradict the idea that we have become LESS ruthless.

What we have lost is any moral guidance as to when ruthlessness is the proper line to take, and when mercy is appropriate. We extend mercy to those who have killed millions, starved, tortured, and oppressed the helpless, and we are ruthless in our own oppression, starvation, and torture of the helpless.

As predicted, we have become oath breakers, merciless, implacable, lovers of pleasure, liars, and etc ...

Finally, there is a massive error in all the discussion above on warfare generations, and that is the implicit presumption that the practice of them is an either/or question. It is not. It is quite possible, indeed normal and perhaps even inevitable, that they all be practiced simultaneously, albeit to different degrees.

The USA is currently practicing ALL of them. But while it wins the 2nd/3rd gen conflicts in which it engages, and the CIA and its allies seem adept at starting and perpetuating 4th gen conflicts (which you might call "winning" if you are Charlie Sheen on acid), the US military and by extension the US government are losing every single 4GW conflict in which they are engaged.

As an empire greater than any other the world has yet seen, they are, as a matter of course, involved in many such conflicts at any one time.

(No, it is neither clear nor self-evident that the US government is in control of the CIA. It often appears to be the reverse.)

OpenID cailcorishev July 23, 2014 5:43 AM  

"A true victory is to make your enemies see they were wrong to oppose you in the first place. To force them to acknowledge your greatness." -- Gul Dukat, Star Trek DS9

Blogger Leahn Novash July 23, 2014 7:17 AM  

Vox, I disagree with your current draft.

I mean, I see your general point, but I disagree with the way you are saying it. You see, one of those things that I keep telling people when I discuss with them is that reality doesn't care whether or not you believe it, and it doesn't care whether or not you can present your case. Reality simply is. What is true is true, and what is false is false, regardless of one's ability to correctly present his case.

One can (and many do) accidentally reach the correct answers by a completely incorrect reasoning, and one can reach the incorrect answers by a perfectly rational and grounded reasoning, if he starts from the wrong premises.

Therefore, you cannot say that the truthness (or in your case the falseness) of something is attached to how many facets of false rhetoric one is using because the truthness of something is attached to nothing whatsoever. Something is true or false regardless of whether you can present your case, whether you believe it and even whether you know it exists. So, I disagree.

I think there is a point there, but I can't quite grasp it yet, as well.

Also, about whether to do in such discussions, I've found that pushing for truth will result in one of these outcomes:

1) The person will pretend it never happened and quietly withdraw (that usually happens when they can silence you somehow so you can't push further),

2) The person will declare that his position is true (because it is obvious, because everyone knows it, because it's been proven by science many times already, because he says so) and then declare himself the victor and withdraw,

3) The person will insult you and then withdraw.

What they won't do is answer. Not that I mind it. I push for truth for the sake of others that might stumble upon the discussion, as I know I won't convince the person. But they won't answer. Ever.

OpenID simplytimothy July 23, 2014 8:13 AM  

Therefore, you cannot say that the truthness (or in your case the falseness) of something is attached to how many facets of false rhetoric one is using because the truthness of something is attached to nothing whatsoever. Something is true or false regardless of whether you can present your case, whether you believe it and even whether you know it exists. So, I disagree.


He did not state that it is directly correlated. His observation is that the probability of the thing rises with the indicators displayed.

Had he posited what you say, I would agree with you, but he did not.

Anonymous Carlotta July 23, 2014 11:16 AM  

Thanks for the reply. That is effective.

And the Scalzi shaming is just good fun.




I look forward to any further posts on this. Thanks.

Blogger Stefani Monaghan July 23, 2014 11:29 AM  

"His observation is that the probability of the thing rises with the indicators displayed."

Initially, he speaks only of the strength of the argument, not at all about its truth:

"a certain rhetorical pattern reliably emerges on the side that has the weaker case"

However, the proposed draft of the Third Law does directly address the probability of truth:

"Third Law (first draft): The probability of a position's falsehood increases with the number of applicable facets of false rhetoric."

Perhaps a second draft is needed to address the discrepancy.

Blogger Michael Z. Williamson July 23, 2014 12:08 PM  

Quite a few Christian televangelists followed this exact model with "atheists" and alleged "cults."

Blogger Tom Kratman July 23, 2014 12:34 PM  

"4th GW warfare has always been a facit of Afghan life."

If so, then 4GW is not 4GW at all, but 0GW.

Blogger Tom Kratman July 23, 2014 12:48 PM  

That, or you need the services of a time machine.

Anonymous TJIC July 23, 2014 3:45 PM  

Speaking of War College papers that are worth shit, the news today is that Senator John Walsh's was mostly stolen from the works of others.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/24/us/politics/montana-senator-john-walsh-plagiarized-thesis.html

Anonymous ENthePeasant July 23, 2014 3:54 PM  

"That, or you need the services of a time machine."

Maybe. A serious problem I've always had when discussing this is the need, particularly amongst German and US officers, for a perfect PP presentation that's completely linear. It will never happen. They can accept that there was Guerrilla Warfare in WW I and II, and that there was trench warfare in Northern reaches of the Eastern front... but not that 4th GW is historical, as if it destroys the theory. I don't know if Bill Lind has email yet (doubt it), but a friend went to the trouble of actually sending Lind a hand written letter on this very subject of historical generations of war and his point was terse and biblical as you'd expect. Nothing new under the sun and the predominate doesn't dismiss other forms of war. 4th GW is about to become the predominate form of warfare, or so I'm arguing, not the only form of warfare. You once told me on the subject of dividing America up that it would be impossible because we're too intermixed. After some thought I agreed but it made my blood run cold. I believe CW is coming (and not just here) as soon as the money runs out, and the results will be a very messy 4th GW with 1st, 2nd and a smidgen of 3rd mixed in as our hollowed out governments try to maintain their rice bowls.

Blogger Tom Kratman July 23, 2014 6:04 PM  

German and US officers....yeah. Our influence there has been profound and not for the better.

Thing is, it isn't new. And if it isn't new then we have a) a whole bunchaton of history to guide us and b) not a lot of need for intellectual pretensions on how new it all is.

Anonymous ENthePeasant July 23, 2014 6:52 PM  

I keep wanting to point this out but my tiny mind loses the thread easily. Martin Van Creveld, who's really the father of 4th GW, not that he used the term 4th GW first, was the inventor of "The Wall" in Israel. Even in Israel his hard bitten way of getting the facts, without even a hint of PC, is hard for many Israelis to stomach. Some here have asked, "how do we fight 4th GW?" You build a fucking wall and obviously the US has chosen the opposite. For all I hear about another "intifada" and other Arab fantasies, the Wall ended all that, and the wall will keep it all from coming back. Hamas, who's dedicated to the premise of tearing down the wall on the Gaza border, insists that this is so Arabs, can work in Israel... and in the west it's always considered wise to do the things your enemies want, but after two to three terror bombings a month for a close to a decade Israel finally got the message and put up the wall which basically extents around the entire country and has reduced terror bombings to two in something like ten years. Hamas, who believes Jews are the problem in the world may not be an honest player in wanting the barriers down... although I'm sure having Arabs, whose culture runs at about a 5th grade level would love to have some money to tax from those Arab workers in Israel. It's amusing in a kind of gallows humor way that Israel is presented as the problem by Hamas and the PA, Israel separates themselves from their neighbors and their can't build an economy of their own. Without aid from the UN and the West so-called Palestinians would starve to death and this war would be over and the Arabs would have to find jobs. That's how you fight a 4th GW opponent. Isolate them.

Anonymous ENthePeasant July 23, 2014 7:48 PM  

"German and US officers....yeah. Our influence there has been profound and not for the better."

I blame everything on culture. Brits, who've fought against a shitload of insurgencies, don't reject 4th GW as a concept, they just don't care much. It's all part of the process for them, the 100 years war, and all that.

On another front I had a Red Army archivist say that Studebaker trucks won WW II for the Red Army. They had the troops and weapons all along... but the Wehrmacht was fighting a war of maneuver as per their doctrine and weren't really interested in going head to head with the largest and best equipped formations of the Red Army. They surrounded them and cut them off made easier because the Red Army had no transport. Of course it's very difficult to keep n unit together by walking out of an encirclement. A lot of this stuff about Stalin ordering them not to retreat had to do with maintaining some sense of cohesion. Ford trucks allowed the Red Army to "prevent a counterrevolution" in Czecho 1968. By the late 1980s most of that Ford Motor factory was devoted to tractors and other stuff with little military application and there was simply no way to move enough troops around the interior to prevent the fall of the Soviet Union. Not exactly exciting stuff. The Chechen insurgency, is a model 4th GW cluster fuck that turned into 2nd GW/attrition warfare. That's what happens when a government can mass their forces.The reason I mention this is to make the point that it would seem that declining state control makes 4th GW. That last sentence is pure speculation on my part and I'm throwing it out there. Admittedly I'm not sure.

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