William S. Lind: Understanding Fourth Generation War
William S. Lind: Understanding Fourth Generation War
William Sturgiss Lind,
Director of the Center for Cultural Conservatism
at the Free Congress Foundation, is a native
of Cleveland, Ohio, born July 9, 1947. He
graduated magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa
from Dartmouth College in 1969 and received
a Master's Degree in History from Princeton
University in 1971. He worked as a legislative
aide for armed services for Senator Robert
Taft, Jr., of Ohio from 1973 through 1976
and held a similar position with Senator Gary
Hart of Colorado from 1977 through 1986. He
joined Free Congress Foundation in 1987.
Lind is author of the Maneuver Warfare Handbook
(Westview Press, 1985); co-author, with Gary
Hart, of America Can Win: The Case for Military
Reform (Adler & Adler, 1986); and co-author,
with William H. Marshner, of Cultural Conservatism:
Toward a New National Agenda (Free Congress
Foundation, 1987). He has written extensively
for both popular media, including The Washington
Post, The New York Times, and Harper's, and
professional military journals, including
The Marine Corps Gazette, U.S. Naval Institute
Proceedings and Military Review.
co-authored the prescient article, "The Changing
Face of War: Into the Fourth Generation,"
which was published in The Marine Corps Gazette
in October, 1989 and which first propounded
the concept of "Fourth Generation War." Mr.
Lind and his co-authors predicted that states
would increasingly face threats not from other
states, but from non-state forces whose primary
allegiance was to their religion, ethnic group
or ideology. Following the events of September
11, 2001, the article has been credited for
its foresight by The New York Times Magazine
and The Atlantic Monthly.
Mr. Lind is co-author
with Paul M. Weyrich of the monograph: "Why
Islam is a Threat to America and The West."
He is the author of "George W. Bush's `War
on Terrorism': Faulty Strategy and Bad Tactics?"
Both were published in 2002 by the Free Congress
Will Saddam's capture mark a turning point in the war in Iraq? Don't count
on it. Few resistance fighters have been fighting for Saddam personally.
Saddam's capture may lead to a fractioning of the Baath Party, which would
move us further toward a Fourth Generation situation where no one can
recreate the state. It may also tell the Shiites that they no longer need
America to protect them from Saddam, giving them more options in their
struggle for free elections.
If the U.S. Army used the capture of Saddam to announce the end of tactics
that enrage ordinary Iraqis and drive them toward active resistance, it
might buy us a bit of de-escalation. But I don't think we'll be that smart.
When it comes to Fourth Generation war, it seems nobody in the American
military gets it.
Recently, a faculty member at the National Defense University wrote to
Marine Corps General Mattis, commander of I MAR DIV, to ask his views on the
importance of reading military history. Mattis responded with an eloquent
defense of taking time to read history, one that should go up on the wall at
all of our military schools. "Thanks to my reading, I have never been
caught flat-footed by any situation," Mattis said. "It doesn't give me all
the answers, but it lights what is often a dark path ahead."
Still, even such a capable and well-bread commander as General Mattis seems
to miss the point about Fourth Generation warfare. He said in his missive,
"Ultimately, a real understanding of history means that we face NOTHING new
under the sun. For all the '4th Generation of War' intellectuals running
around today saying that the nature of war has fundamentally changed, the
tactics are wholly new, etc., I must respectfully say...'Not really"...
Well, that isn't quite what we Fourth Generation intellectuals are saying.
On the contrary, we have pointed out over and over that the 4th Generation
is not novel but a return, specifically a return to the way war worked
before the rise of the state. Now, as then, many different entities, not
just governments of states, will wage war. They will wage war for many
different reasons, not just "the extension of politics by other means." And
they will use many different tools to fight war, not restricting themselves
to what we recognize as military forces. When I am asked to recommend a
good book describing what a Fourth Generation world will be like, I usually
suggest Barbara Tuchman's A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous Fourteenth
Nor are we saying that Fourth Generation tactics are new. On the contrary,
many of the tactics Fourth Generation opponents use are standard guerilla
tactics. Others, including much of what we call "terrorism," are classic
Arab light cavalry warfare carried out with modern technology at the
operational and strategic, not just tactical, levels.
As I have said before in this column, most of what we are facing in Iraq
today is not yet Fourth Generation warfare, but a War of National
Liberation, fought by people whose goal is to restore a Baathist state. But
as that goal fades and those forces splinter, Fourth Generation war will
come more and more to the fore. What will characterize it is not vast
changes in how the enemy fights, but rather in who fights and what they
fight for. The change in who fights makes it difficult for us to tell
friend from foe. A good example is the advent of female suicide bombers; do
U.S. troops now start frisking every Moslem woman they encounter? The
change in what our enemies fight for makes impossible the political
compromises that are necessary to ending any war. We find that when it comes
to making peace, we have no one to talk to and nothing to talk about. And
the end of a war like that in Iraq becomes inevitable: the local state we
attacked vanishes, leaving behind either a stateless region (Somalia) or a
façade of a state (Afghanistan) within which more non-state elements rise
General Mattis is correct that none of this is new. It is only new to state
armed forces that were designed to fight other state armed forces. The fact
that no state military has recently succeeded in defeating a non-state enemy
reminds us that Clio has a sense of humor: history also teaches us that not
all problems have solutions.