MEGATRENDS: Fourth Generation Warfare    
 Fourth Generation Warfare6 comments

Col. John Boyd (he died in 1997) is considered one of America's best military thinkers. His thinking dramatically influenced the plan of attack in the first gulf war. Boyd's thinking also serves as a good basis for a deeper understanding of 4GW [link] (fourth generation warfare).

Grand strategy, according to Boyd, is a quest to isolate your enemy's (a nation-state or a global terrorist network) thinking processes from connections to the external/reference environment. This process of isolation is essentially the imposition of insanity on a group. To wit: any organism that operates without reference to external stimuli (the real world), falls into a destructive cycle of false internal dialogues. These corrupt internal dialogues eventually cause dissolution and defeat.

The dynamic of Boyd's grand strategy is to isolate your enemy across three essential vectors (physical, mental, and moral), while at the same time improving your connectivity across those same vectors. Here's more detail:

* Physical isolation is accomplished by severing communications both to the outside world (ie. allies) and internal audiences (ie. between branches of command and between the command organization and its supporters).

* Mental isolation is done through the introduction of ambiguous information, novel situations, and by operating at a tempo an enemy cannot keep up with. A lack of solid information impedes decision making.

* Moral isolation is achieved when an enemy improves its well being at the expense of others (allies) or violates rules of behavior they profess to uphold (standards of conduct). Moral rules are a very important reference point in times of uncertainty. When these are violated, it is very hard to recover.

Our progress so far
When we evaluate our progress in the war on terrorism based on Boyd's measures of isolation, the following is seen:

* Physical isolation. America has been physically isolated from many of its allies due to its rush to war in Iraq. It also has demonstated (via the slow process by which news of Abu Ghraib reached the President and Congress) that internal communications have been disrupted. The destruction of al Qaeda's training camps and visible communications systems have resulted in a degree of isolation. However, the network-based organizational structure of al Qaeda and its ability to manipulate the media to send messages to supporters has mitigated this effort.

* Mental isolation. The rapid emergence of new threats (al Sadr, al Zarqawi, and Fallujah) and the myriad of geographically dispersed attacks that require response (from Spain to Saudi Arabia -- from Basra to Mosel) have served to isolate the US on the mental plane. It is also very difficult, due to ambiguity of information, to determine who the enemy is (this is true in Iraq and across the world from Pakistan to Saudi Arabia). The bulk of the early effort to continuously attack al Qaeda has subsided as the US concentrates on Iraq -- our early gains have been squandered.

* Moral isolation. The excesses at the Abu Ghraib prison demonstrate a classic violation of moral codes of conduct. The evidence indicates that the US intentionally (in that there was a climate of urgency that permitted it) violated these rules due to desire to gain information needed to fight guerrilla groups in Iraq. Another example of moral isolation is America's insistance on the right to self-defense, at the expense of the rest of the world. There has not been any evidence that al Qaeda sponsored operations have drastically violated any internal moral codes. However, the proliferation of groups associated with al Qaeda have resulted in attacks (for example: attacks on Shiites in Pakistan and Iraq that are against al Qaeda policy) may serve to isolate al Qaeda if their actions are adopted by the main organization.

A vision statement for this conflict
From this analysis it is clear that the US is, as the result of this war, more isolated than our enemy. However, Boyd suggests that the best corrective action is for the US to articulate a grand unifying vision for this war. A "with us or against us" approach and unilateral military action is not productive (it drives isolation). A better vision statement (we should have a contest for this):

The United States will commit all of the resources at its disposal to help nations everywhere preserve those values that we all hold as vital to our future success."

Posted by John Robb on Saturday, 08 May 2004 at 10:59 PM | [link]



9 Jun 2009 @ 05:24 by a-d : This makes many
"things" much clearer and hence easier to grasp more fully! THANKS,Vax!  

9 Jun 2009 @ 08:28 by vaxen : Hi A-d...
Yes. John writes with precision and he has a great site as well as great insight. I thought you'd probably enjoy the piece... ;)  

12 Jun 2009 @ 10:07 by vaxen : Of course...
we are way beyond 4GW, now, yet most military thinkers are hung up in 4GW. Think asymmetrically... ;)

And I still don't know what Letterman said about Sarah Palin that has people wanting to demonstrate for his removal from whatever 'station' broadcasts him. Ah well...  

20 Aug 2009 @ 14:58 by vaxen : I see...
the jazzo pup is harping on and on about someone blowing his blog apart. Very interesting as he never seems to take into consideration the nasty things that were said about that someone which induced that someone to delete their own intellectual property in the form of comments on that potholed blog nor does the pup take into consideration his own offences which induced some very lovely people into leaving NCN. He asks is it a healthy environment? If not...why is he staying and harping up old fish?  

29 Aug 2009 @ 07:44 by maxtobin : Iso late the enema
The situation is simple eh doc the isolated enemy has done the job already by staying lost in the mind.

The heart centered way is the way through the mire. Forgive them for they know not what they do creating so much doodoo.

I enjoy the view from the distance and just as you do have retired to the ancestral temple and consistently realign through the heart. Recall that that upon which one focuses their attention is thereby empowered. A fine tight rope to walk eh wot.  

29 Aug 2009 @ 20:54 by vaxen : You are...
so right, mate. Thanks so much for pointing the way. Te Ava Roa... good to see you again in the hereabouts Max. Hope all is well with you and Alana. Of course it is! ;)


Friday, 28 August 2009
JOURNAL: Professional Pride in an Environment with No Rules

"These are technically sophisticated people who take pride in their work, and when we knock them down they don't just decide to go find something else to do. You could say we are breeding the perfect spammer." Jim Buckmaster, CEO Craigslist

This is a great quote that captures the idea that global crime has become professionalized, and that the increasingly sophisticated people that engaged in it take pride in their work/expertise. Remember, capitalism doesn't have an intrinsic morality. The only objective is to match supply with demand and make money doing it. How you accomplish that goal is irrelevant.

NOTE: In a round about way, this is also one of the reasons why Russian and Chinese hackers are stomping all over US government and corporate networks. Contrast the darwinian environment (pressures include everything from arrest to financial ruin) where these young professional criminals work with the financially generous (pay and pensions), tenured, and bureaucratically opaque world where the engineers in our technical intelligence agencies work.


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