Author Archives: GI Wilson

DoD defends itself against dangerous new ideas about 4GW.

Summary:  Modern wars are fought on paper as competing military theories before people put them to use. Some do this faster than others. Mao wrote the core texts bringing 4GW to maturity in 1937-38; since then others have greatly advanced the art — while western militaries fiddle with the failed methods of COIN. In the late 1980s military reformers made intellectual breakthroughs to catch-up with our foes. DoD’s leaders understood that these threaten their way of life, and have successful fought them. The price has been defeat in our wars since 9/11.

This is the 2nd chapter of a series by GI Wilson (Colonel, USMC, retired). This is the 2nd of 2 posts today.

For fighting wars of the past

For fighting wars of the past

Backward “and” Forward: 4GW Orientation On War – part 2

Critics of 4GW theory

Much of the criticism of 4GW is laced with things that the original 4GW authors did not say or hold out as incontrovertible. Army War College professor, Dr Antulio Echevarria wrote a scathing critique regarding what he termed 4GW “mythology: “Fourth-Generation War and Other Myths” (Strategic Studies Institute, 2005). This critique in a large measure focused on Col T.X Hammes’ book, The Sling and the Stone (2004).

Hammes’ book is a seminal work but does not singularly represent the original 4GW authors’ thoughts. Echevarria in his dogmatic critique fails to point out that T.X. Hammes is not one of the original 4GW authors. Nor does Hammes constitutes the whole cloth of 4GW.  Echevarria takes great umbrage with Hammes’ notion of 4GW (i.e. “evolved insurgency”) while carelessly lumping the primary 4GW authors into his derailed criticism.

“4GW – Myth, or the Future of Warfare? A Reply to Antulio Echevarria” is an excellent bruising rebuttal to Eschevarria’s critique published by John Sayen (it’s here on page 5). Sayen notes that Professor Echevarria’s reaction to the 4GW thesis is to deny all of it. Sayen underscores how Echevarria avoids talking about the essentials of 4GW by insisting on using Hammes’ definition of 4GW as his target of criticism.

In contrast to Echevarria, Franz Osinga provides a more balanced thoughtful analysis of 4GW applications in “On Boyd, Bin Laden, and Fourth Generation Warfare as String Theory” by Col. Dr. Frans Osinga, from On New Wars edited by John Olson (2007):

4GW is inspiring discussion, debate, frustration, refinement of insights, assertions, conjectures and refutations, in short, like many other works that try to make sense of our uncertain and ever-changing environment, it helps us refine and adjust our orientation pattern and learn. Whatever one may think of 4GW, considering the wide audience, one cannot ignore the importance of it as an idea in strategic theory, and as an appealing, – resonating – description of problems confronting western military and political elites today.

4GW does not cover all aspects of the evolving strategic landscape, and perhaps 4GW is not the entirely academically correct analysis, but as an exercise in strategic thinking, creating a coherent synthesis out of a myriad of disparate trends and developments, it certainly has merits by making people aware of potential contours and dynamics of the future strategic landscape. Boyd would agree with the effort indeed.

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Understanding 4GW, the first step to winning the Long War.

Summary: in the 65 years after Mao brought 4th generation war to maturity, 25 years after the article coining the term, we continue to send our troops out to fight 4GW wars in foreign lands. We continue to lose, as almost all foreign armies do. At the FM website we mark these anniversaries by articles discussing 4GW, how it works, and why we refuse to learn how to win. Today we have the first chapter of a series by GI Wilson (Colonel, USMC, retired). It’s important; America’s survival during the 21st century might require mastery of 4GW.


Source: Syed Zaid Zaman Hamid.

Backward “and” Forward: 4GW Orientation On War – part 1


The Changing Face of War” appeared 25 years ago in both U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Army professional journals providing a prescient emerging look into the intersection of war, violence, conflict, terrorism, and crime. There were follow-up articles in the Marine Corps Gazette: “The Evolution of War: The Fourth Generation” in September 1994 by Thomas X. Hammes (Lt Colonel, USMC, retired), “Fourth Generation Warfare: Another Look” in December 1994 by the original authors. There were also online features such as “On Gangs, Crime, and Terrorism” and Fourth-Generation Warfare It’s Here, And We Need New Intelligence-Gathering Techniques For Dealing With It.

Regrettably military and law enforcement professionals ignored these articles as well as others. Yet, the fourth generation warfare (4GW) forecasts were and are very prescient. For more about this see “The Evolution of Warfare; Back to the Future” by Gary Anderson (Colonel, USMC, retired), Marine Corps Gazette, September 2013.

The 4GW threat

Today the fourth generation warfare (4GW) orientation remains in the shadows summarily dismissed in many quarters to include DOD, DHS, and DOJ. The events of the last 25 years lend weight to the 4GW orientation. The 4GW orientation offers a different perspective on emerging war, violence, and conflict as an alternative to our conventional acquisition based nation-state thinking.

In short the idea of considering how one thinks about war and conflict impacts what one does in the present and future. An obligatory old dead general quote gives credence to having the right orientation and perspective on war. Carl von Clausewitz said in On War,

“The first, the supreme, the most far-reaching act of judgment that the statesman and commander have to make is to establish … the kind of war on which they are embarking.”

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The Psychology of Killer Drones – action against our foes; reaction affecting us

From the archives.
It describes America today more than it did when written in September 2011.

Summary: GI WIlson explains that we now have enough experience with drone warfare to study its effects. Just as in physics, our actions affect ourselves as well as our targets. Social science research shows that drones are a gateway to moral disengagement dehumanization, and deindividuation. The great distances drones operate over, manipulated by faceless-nameless-lawyeristic-voyeurs, creates an emotional, mental, and physical divide between “us” ( i.e. our government) and the enemies we kill. Drones allow us to dissociate our actions from our values, a useful high-cost and high-tech justification. At the end are links to gain more information about this new form of warfare.

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
— Newtons Third Law of Motion, Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy (1687)

Flying Terminator

From The Terminator (not written as history)


  1. Moral Disengagement
  2. Dehumanization
  3. Deindividuation
  4. Articles about UAV’s
  5. Other posts about UAVs
  6. References

(1) Moral Disengagement

Bandura studied the behaviour of individuals engaging in destructive activities towards others, describing it as “moral disengagement”. “People do not generally act out destructively unless they have a mechanism to morally justify their actions to themselves and others” Moral disengagement encompasses ways one mitigates, justifies, neutralizes, or eliminates inhibitions or moral constraints connected to committing acts of violence or a crime. Bandura holds that people use moral disengagement techniques such as “cognitive reconstruction and dehumanization to view certain despicable acts or conduct as justifiable or rational” (Bandura, 2004).

McAlister, Bandura, & Owen (2006) describe four behavioural prongs of moral disengagement associated with violence particularly as it pertains to the military. The four prongs are moral justification, minimization of detrimental effects, disavowal of responsibility and dehumanization (McAlister, Bandura, & Owen, 2006):

At the behaviour locus, people transform lethal means into benevolent and moral ones through moral justification, advantageous comparison, and sanitizing language. At the agency locus, they are relieved of a sense of personal accountability by displacement and diffusion of responsibility. At the outcome locus, the injurious effects of lethal means are disregarded, minimized, or disputed. At the other end, foes are dehumanized and blamed for bringing the suffering on themselves (p. 142).

(2) Dehumanization

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