Thursday, August 10, 2006

Israel-Lebanon Conflict: Fourth Generation War

"You, Christian. Can you smell the stench of Lebanon burning?" he hissed.
"No," I said politely,"I think that's the Taoists burning joss paper for the Seventh Month."
But still, the current Israel-Lebanon (or should it be Israel-Hezbollah?) conflict is of interest on 3 major fronts:
  1. it disrupted a planned trip to Israel at the end of the year;
  2. it is the very model of a Fourth Generation War whose evolution is fascinating to observe; and
  3. the suffering that is an inevitable consequence of any war surely affects any member of the human race, any citizen of this earth and any Christian living in this world. (See "Justice and Hate" by Andrew Cameron & Tracy Nodder.)
Fourth Generation War
Fourth Generation War is (in Wikipedia style but obviously, since I am no military theorist, to the best of my knowledge) a term coined by civilian defence theorist, William S. Lind.

In his theory of the framework of modern war, the First Generation ran roughly from the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 to 1860. It was characterised by conscription (and the decline of mercenaries), Napoleonic line and column tactics, where battles were formal and the battlefield was orderly. The Second Generation, developed by the French army around the time of World War I, was still essentially linear but characterised by centrally-controlled, synchronised firepower ("the artillery conquers, the infantry occupies") with the goal of attrition. Command was top-down and strictly-enforced. The uncontrolled initiative of individuals was highly-discouraged because it endangered synchronisation. The Third Generation, developed by the Germans just before World War II, was characterised by manouevre (rather than attrition) and encirclement tactics, decentralised command (very Liddell-Hart-ish Mongolian mobility, whatwhat?) and armoured warfare. Blitzkrieg. The orders specified the result to be achieved but never the method. Initiative was encouraged.

Unlike the other generations of modern war, one of the major participants in a Fourth Generation War (the most recent (and ongoing) example being the Iraq War) is not a nation state but is frequently a violent ideological network like the Al-Qa'ida (in fact, an Al-Qa'ida writer has explained that 4GW strategy will be why the Al-Qa'ida will be victorious).

The technical/operational advantages of a 4GW network to 2GW (which US had until the 1980s (and some say till the present day)) or 3GW soldiers of a nation-state are many:
  • small groups of combatants make an ideological network almost resilient to attrition;
  • small units are also able to make decisions quickly and autonomously, adapting and innovating without referring back to a central authority, enabling faster decision cycles and response times;
  • not being bound by international treaties and human rights conventions;
  • integration in the enemy society make 4GW fighters more difficult to detect, and even if detected, harder to prove to the population as "terrorists";
  • an open-source community approach allows quicker technological and tactical innovation cycles without the need for topdown approval...
In 4GW, there is the blurring of boundaries between war and politics (and not blaming it on poor old Clausewitz for once), soldier and civilian, and battlefield and safety. The methodology of 4GW is characterised by undermining, rather than directly attacking, the enemy nation's strengths and by asymmetric operations where weaponry and technology differ substantially from the enemy state. 4GW fighters do not confront the enemy nation's armed forces head-on. Instead, they use the enemy's society as its battlefield, striking at cultural, civilian, political and population targets.

The aim of 4GW is to destroy the moral bond that allows a nation-state to exist; to destroy social cohesion. Menace attacks, like bombs in public transportation, put the population on the edge by threatening basic survival instincts. The creation of divisions within the enemy society, whether racial, religious, political or between economic classes, easily generates mistrust that leads to the unrivalling of community ties, especially in non-homogenous states. And all this builds an environment of fear and uncertainty, decreasing economic confidence and undermining financial activity.

4GW's judo concept of warfare seeks to turn the strengths of the enemy against itself. So terrorists easily use a free society's freedom and openness, its greatest strengths, against itself. For in a democratic society, political leaders remain in power only by the vote of the people, and media opinion influences the voting population. A distracted politician with one eye on the popularity polls will not act entirely for the good of his country: he will act in accordance to popular opinion but not necessarily in wisdom. So specific insurgent tactics would include heavy use of the enemy media to destroy popular support in the enemy's society for the battle against 4GW insurgents by:

  • portraying the enemy nation-state as heavy-handed and a big bully, a typical David-and-Goliath angle with photos of little boys throwing stones at heavily-armed men;
  • highlighting perceived nation-state violations of human rights;
  • underlining terrible civilian casualties in areas where the insurgents had previously hidden their weapon caches or where they had used the indigenous population as human shields;
  • misdirecting the fears of the enemy's citizens to, for example, violations of their own privacy;
  • err...just basically controlling what the media sees (it's easier to do this when you're NOT a nation-state, even though the journos should have been suspicious that you had your own press officials)...
Ehud Olmert, the current Israeli Prime Minister has already attracted both international and domestic criticism for his role in the Israel-Lebanon/Hezbollah War. Unlike Ariel Sharon or Yitzhak Rabin, neither Olmert nor his Defense Minister, Amir Peretz, have the benefit of extensive high-level military experience. Apparently, Olmert "didn't have any kind of strategic plan, it was a very instantaneous reaction".

Will Israel's change of strategy from heavy firepower, long-range bombardment to small, fastmoving units with lighter equipment will turn the tide of the Israel-Lebanon/Hezbollah War? What new FIBUA guerilla-on-guerilla tactics will emerge? Will John Boyd's OODA Loop (that is, "Observe Orient Decide Act" Loop) be put into use and how will it fare? How will Israel deal with the main dilemma of 4GW, that victory on the physical level (killing people, destroying objects) usually works against the victor (seen as the big bad bully) politically, culturally and morally in the hearts and minds of the people? How will Israel deal with the ongoing hijacking of the media?

If and when Israel succeeds, it'll be interesting to think how these lessons can be translated to our local urban environment.

NB1: This Draft Manual on Fourth Generation War makes interesting suggestions how a nation-state could win a 4GW. Ongoing commentary at Global Guerrillas, International Relations and Security Network and StrategyUnit.

NB2: If a 4GW does break out on our doorstep, via Jamiah Islamiah or otherwise, will our local intelligentsia continue to fĂȘte the vocal disgruntled who whine about a strong one-party government or about racial prejudices as daring, witty and refreshing, or will they see them as subversive betrayers bent on destroying the fragile harmony of our community from the inside?

NB3: 4GW strategy and tactics sound like the sort of Screwtape Letters that a senior devil might write to a younger one: How To Defeat The Body of Christ, How To Divide and Conquer God's People, How To Turn Strengths Of The Chosen Ones Against Themselves.

NB4: Update - 14 August 2006: Olmert is now slated to be challenged at the Knesset for accepting the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701 for a ceasefire.


At August 14, 2006 11:53 pm , Blogger paddychicken said...

And apparently the best laid plans of the IDF have been laid waste by their dear PM.

And although you are not a military theorist, you've amassed quite an impressive collection of buzzwords :)

At August 22, 2006 10:19 am , Blogger shadow said...

Yeah, it's quite a pity. Wonder what his strategy was (if any).

Really? Didn't notice. Well, I did an extremely bad project on military strategy for IRS in Sec 2 if that counts for anything. :-p


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home