Postmodern classic?

Thursday, September 22, 2005

4GW= Crap, or 'The Joy of Simplicity'

Ah, new words and revolutionary concepts. To those that know me, they won't be surprised to see me so incensed over little conflicts about terminology. I used to think the best material was the stuff it took you years to understand- philosophy, history, etc. Now, in a display of elemental crudeness, I affirm my belief in simplicity. If you can't explain it in a paragraph, don't bother. Scientists researching evolution aren't sure if organisms get more complex or simple as they change over time- let my beliefs be clear, I'm pretty sure it's the latter.

"4GW" is 4th Generation Warfare, a phenomenom first read about in the Marine Corps Gazette. It is then further explored in "The Sling and the Stone", a book by Col. Hammes (USMC, ret.) about counterinsurgency. Basically it's a rehash of People's War as explained by the Communists. I've briefly mentioned before how revolutionary Marxists used these utopian conceptions of modernity to justify their ideological guerilla movements. But new technology changes things. In the conduct of '4GW' the terrorists use sophisticated models of media manipulation and other innovative ways to level the strategic playing field while being completely outmatched on the tactical field. They want you to believe that these guys can't defeat a unit at the platoon level, but somehow are the legitimate successors to a country? Military feats aren't everything, but they're certainly something. So these '4GW' thugs would lead you to believe that their legitimacy is derived from some esoteric source more pure than that of crude warfare, etc. etc. etc.... sounds like BS to me. Might convince some stoned hippies, but not simple 'ol me. Modernist conceit is what it is- a firm belief in the progressive advances of the future and a complete and willful ignorance of the previous failures to do so.

If I was the academic type, I'd write up a paper. Maybe that's what I'm keeping this blog up for, when I go back looking for paper ideas when I return to school (not soon!). I would critically assess all the assumptions that these writers (I actually know MAJ Vandergriff who is amidst these guys with his article on Human Affairs). I could probably work myself up into a good deconstructionist, postmodernist blather over their unbalanced focus on a progressive, Western-centered 'modern' conception of war. But I'm having a hard time with wasting more than two paragraphs on this line of intellectual masturbation.

Everyone thinks they've got to reinvent the wheel. It's good to innovate, but the problem with this modernist line of thinking is that they seem to forget that we've faced these problems before in the past. Sure, there's no doubt situations change- but to rehash the old saying, 'the more things change, the more they stay the same'. Just because there seems to be a grander scale and recent technology makes things move faster, this doesn't mean our essential human nature has changed dramatically. Y'know, it's probably changing too, but not too noticeably from what I see. We still like to massacre, fornicate and believe in absurdities as much as our unclothed ancestors 5 or 10 thousand years ago. Not that there's anything wrong with that, of course. But I'm not going to preach any more than I have done so far, you can find everything I'm talking about in the books of the Greeks and Romans. I might point you more towards Thucydides, Plutarch and Tacitus, but there are many more. They have many experiences in fighting big, grand conventional wars alongside covert, nuanced night-time espionage or political pressure. They didn't need a Clausewitz to confuse them- the means of conflict were many and in the course of battle, unrestricted.

So where does that leave us and how do we maintain the advantages of our society? We must defend them- but we must know what we are defending. And it's not perfect, either, we still fail to measure up to our own standards. This can be seen in our recent stumbling since the end of the Cold War. It is not easy to be searching for an identity in the midst of political/foreign areas concerning our role in the world generally (or perhaps specifically in conflicts like Iraq). Unease lurks at home and abroad as we try to moralize our new agenda in the power vacuum made possible by the hollow emptiness of Marxist economics exposed by the Soviet collapse. We all seem to be waiting for something to happen... calculating power and advantage just as in the old days.

Once again, I've moved far away from the topic I planned to discuss. What the hell, it's a blog. Maybe it'll mean something someday. Until then- DEFEND AMERICAN FREEDOM! (That WW2 stuff is great.)


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    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:29 AM  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:29 AM  

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    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:29 AM  

  • I've got The Sling and the Stone and Van Creveld's Transformation of War (believe he coined '4GW' in the first place), both gathering dust along with my copy of William S. Lind's Manuever Warfare Handbook.

    The point is, you're right, it is nothing new. Just like Lind -- who as a civilian wag is somehow supposed to have credibility on military affairs -- failed to realize that surfaces and gaps, mission-type orders, etc. all were already in use by the US Army.... And to a large extent, some of those things still aren't used by the Marine Corps, despite their supposed attachment to the concept of manuever warfare!

    However, even if it may seem somewhat old hat to those informed of military history, it doesn't make it any less ineffective. The NVA and VC never inflicted a defeat on the US and allied forces on the battlefield in Vietnam. We lost the war at home, which I fear, is the same way things are looking now with Iraq. The AIF is looking to that as a blueprint for victory in Iraq.

    Officers shouldn't be reading about 4GW, they should be reading history books. Books about the Moros in the Philippines, the Indonesia Confrontation, the Kenya Emergency, the Brits in Aden, etc. We have definitely fought these kinds of wars before, and won. A question I would like to pose: can we win an insurgency with a hostile modern media at home?

    By Anonymous JC, at 6:36 AM  

  • Yeah- there are new aspects of war, but the principles remain the same. Public perception has always been important to warfighters, I think the only difference between now and then is the speed and scale. And the fact that some people haven't adjusted to this makes it a great opportunity for insurgents or other opponents to utilize this valuable asset.

    Democracies benefit from an open exchange of information, but we should be responsible about this on a societal level. There's that question on LGF they ask- how would today's coverage of the war differ if it was being written by our enemies? A good one to think about when sifting through the pages of our different media sources.

    I think it would be great if we could bring up sedition and treason as valid, prosecutable offenses- now, while they are on the books, no one dares to use them. Instead the FBI wants to shut down porn- WTF is going on there. Anyhow, it seems that we must confront this openly- as a society and not as a governmental regulation.

    Bring back treason, I say. If someone calls for that, they should pay the price. That is the price of free and responsible speech! Rhetorical embellishments that are jokes are 'edgy' or 'controversial' should be discussed, but not illegal. But when someone calls for an antidemocratic end to our American system using violence, we should pay closer attention.

    Not addressing this important issue makes it more difficult.

    By Blogger sunguh5307, at 8:03 PM  

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