4GW is simple, despite efforts by practioneers and theoraticians to make it seem complex. The War Nerd’s columns illustrate the simplicity of its use and its remoreseless efficiency. Like this one, demonstrating how the moral high ground is usually a key to victory in 4GW.
“Rules in the Era of Squeamishness“, Gary Brecher (“The War Nerd”), The Exile Online, 12 January 2009 — Excerpt:
When you look at the fighting in Gaza, or any of the other small, chronic wars we get these days, you notice that traditional war buffs, the ones who like to talk about WW II, don’t have much to say. If they say anything at all, it’s usually, “They should just wipe’em out!” Like, “Israel should just wipe the Pals out!” Or “America should just wipe Iraq off the map!”
And on paper, they’re right. Israel could kill every single man, woman and child in Gaza if it wanted to. And Hell, it probably does want to. So why doesn’t it? America could wipe the Sunni Triangle off the map easily, nuke the whole place or use neutron bombs-Hell, nerve gas, even-if we were worried about limiting damage.
But nobody does this stuff. Why not? That’s the big question. That’s what drives the frustration you’re hearing when these old-school war buffs try to deal with war circa 2008: they think in terms of hardware, and the hardware-the nukes-doesn’t seem to apply, somehow. So why not?
… Mao’s military advisor was a German communist cadre named Otto Braun. … Braun convinced the Chinese Communist leadership that these bandit tactics were too low-down and no-count for the People’s Liberation Army. He got them to adopt a “Blockhouse Strategy” which was basically exactly what Hezbollah’s “bunker strategy” was. Only it didn’t work. The Nationalist forces attacked Mao’s bunkers, sustained huge losses but kept attacking, and eventually wore down the Communist defenses.
That was the pattern of warfare up to 1945: accept huge losses to take enemy territory, because when you do, you will be able to neutralize those territories for good. So it pays off. You lose, say, 300 men taking a section of Maoist territory by overrunning those blockhouses. You’ve now gained a peasant population of, say, 100,000. You now get the return on your losses: you immediately kill any Communist sympathizers in the region and force all the young men to sign up with your army at bayonet-point. You’ve made good your casualties because, once you control the enemy territory, you change it for good, turn it from red to blue.
You can’t do that now, except once in a while, in remote places like Sudan or Congo where none of the locals have friends in the media. For most other places, where the news cameras are willing to go, this is the era of squeamishness.
Now let me say, before people start writing in with horror stories from Nam or Africa, I’m not saying we’re nice. We’re no nicer than Foch or Kitchener or Ataturk or Chiang or Budyonnov or any of those early 20th-c. maneaters. … What we’re not usually ready to do is what made sacrificing soldiers’ lives worthwhile for attacking armies pre-1945: total, ruthless, unashamed wipe-out of any opposition once the territory was taken.
The best-known case in the Middle Eastern theatre, post-1945, was what the Israelis’ Phalangist allies did in Sabra and Shatilla outside Beirut in 1982. What you saw there was an attempt to do early-20th-century warfare in the wrong era. I repeat: what they did there, wiping out enemy civilians once they’d taken the territory, would have been standard policy for any European army pre-’45. But in 1982 it backfired completely and gave the IDF a bad name it’s never managed to lose.
For more information from the FM site
To read other articles about these things, see the FM reference page on the right side menu bar. Of esp interest these days:
These posts discuss the theory and practice of 4GW:
I have developed a simple typology to show the relationship of the many works on modern warfare, to show the relationships among the various theories about modern warfare. This has evolved into a first cut at a solution to 4GW. These are the first steps in a long series.
- A solution to 4GW — the introduction
- How to get the study of 4GW in gear
- Arrows in the Eagle’s claw — solutions to 4GW
- Arrows in the Eagle’s claw — 4GW analysts
- Visionaries point the way to success in the age of 4GW
- 4GW: A solution of the first kind – Robots!
- 4GW: A solution of the second kind
- 4GW: A solution of the third kind – Vandergriff is one of the few implementing real solutions.
- Theories about 4GW are not yet like the Laws of Thermodynamics
Also valuable is the The Counterinsurgency Library — a vast listing of online articles about COIN.
Posts about Israel:
- The Fate of Israel, 28 July 2006
- The War Nerd shows how simple 4GW theory can be, 22 January 2009
- Are Israel’s leaders insane? Jeffrey Goldberg thinks so., 15 August 2010