Homemade Transcript of “5th Generation Warfare–What does it all mean?”

Saw something that needed doing, and did it. Didn’t do it perfectly, and I wouldn’t recommend hiring me as a transcriptionist, but this ought to be good enough for non-government work.

purpleslog was on Covert Radio last Friday, 9 May, 2008 and he and I both agree that his words from that interview deserve cut & pastable dissemination.

Welcome everybody to a brand new edition of Covert Radio. I’m your host, Brett Winterble. Over the next 25 minutes or so we’re going to be visiting with somebody who explores the theoretical angles of warfare. This isn’t a policy-maker or any kind of a head of state or any kind of a participant in any think tank. This is a gentleman who blogs in a different kind of area, an area that deals with the theory of warfare, that being Fifth Generation Warfare. So, without any further ado, let me go to an interview that I did with purpleslog. I don’t know his name, I just know his handle. purpleslog runs a blog, I don’t mean for that to rhyme, and he breaks down what he thinks will be the next arena of warfare. The next school of thought in warfare. It’s a kind of warfare called Fifth Generation Warfare, or 5GW, or 5G Warfare. Over the course of the next 15 minutes of so, he’ll take us into that sort of thinking, and into what he thinks wil be the challenges as we move forward in this country. I invite you now to join me in my discussion with purpleslog on the challenges of Fifth Generation Warfare, here on Covert Radio. I’m Brett Winterble, and this, is tomorrow’s headlines today. This is Covert Radio. Welcome to the show, purple.

purpleslog: Hi, thanks a lot, Brett.

Brett: Now, for the benefit of my listeners out there who might not be familiar with this, what exactly is Fifth Generation Warfare and how does that relate to things going on in the world today?

purpleslog: We’ll get you there quick. A guy named Bill Lind a bunch of years ago came up with generations of war for a modern war framework which implies that First Generation Warfare in his point of view was more muskets and things like that, Second Generation Warfare was more attrition warfare, you got manuever warfare, it’s just an interesting category framework for describing conflict modes. In my little corner of the blogosphere we’ve kind of moved past Lind’s definition and [unintelligible] came out to that currently many of the wars and battles and conflicts the United States was in and has been in in the last say, thirty years, our opponents have been Fourth Generation Warfare opponents. They’ve moved beyond just fighting on the battlefield, and it’s more the weaponization of things that are not weapons and using that against us, and what’s the best way for the United States. I am a a U. S. citizen, you know, yay United States! How is the best way for the United States to respond to Fourth Generation Warfare? With more Fourth Generation Warfare or is there a Fifth Generation? You know if there is a Fourth Generation what would a Fifth Generation of warfare look like that could be used to counter it? And we start from there and have been fully mapping out the possibility for some other ways to combat Fourth Generation Warfare opponents and our extrapolation was to, well we’ll call it Fifth Generation Warfare. I’m actually going to read off the definition we’re currently working on, I say “our” I’m also a co-blogger at Dreaming 5GW. The current working definition we’re using is Fifth Generation Warfare is the secret deliberative manipulation of actors, networks, institutions, systems, and any other First Generation through Fourth Generation forces to achieve a goal, or set a goal, probably a combination of socio-economic and political domains while trying to avoid or minimize the retaliatory or defensive actions of your opponent.

Fifth Generation Warfare is when [unintelligible] is really very small actors that are not going to be trying to explicitly, there not going to necessarily be involved with fire fights. What they’re going to be trying to do they’re going to change the world around them in secret. They’re going to try to take a lot of institutions because global actors, whether states or non-states, are still working around in a sea of global institutions and they’re going to effect the results they want by manipulating these institutions and other actors out there. The Fifth Generation Warfare actor is not very powerful in the sense they don’t have a lot of guns, they don’t have weapons, so they’re willing to use secrecy and once they’re discovered, once their Fifth Generation Warfare activity is discovered, the force placed before it’s results are there, it’s pretty much destroyed. Exposure destroys the ability of the Fifth Generation Warfare effort. [crosstalk]

Brett: Now, I know that the typical Middle Eastern terror group would be considered Fourth Generation Warfare, right? Like al Qaeda, Hezbollah, things like that?

purpleslog: Right. And there are different variations of it too, you know, some of them are more centralized than others. I mean, you look at the PLO and how it is very centralized and Hezbollah is much more decentralized and they’re very effective at what they do. The last Israeli war with Hezbollah, I don’t want to say that Israel lost necessarily, they didn’t get the, they certainly didn’t achieve the strategic goals they wanted to. Hezbollah proved to be very adept at fighting them and pre-planning it. They’re good light infantry fighters but they’re also very decentralized. Their small maneuver groups, very small units, ten or twelve guys, and once the war started they didn’t get instructions from commanders above, they had areas they could operate in freely, maneuver in, and I hate to say they did a pretty good job. I’m not trying to say Yay, Hezbollah! but

Brett: No, no, no, but certainly, certainly you’re applauding at least the tactical innovation, you’re not applauding what the group’s trying to do. I understand. My name is Brett Winterble, this is Covert Radio, talking to purpleslog, our special guest this segment, talking about Fifth Generation Warfare. Here’s my question, though: so if al Qaeda or these little cellular groups are operating as Fourth Generation Warfare people, would domestically, would like ELF or ALF be a Fifth Generation incarnation? Because these are small groups that rely on secrecy, that may not even know each other. Would ELF and ALF be considered like a fifth Generation entity?

purpleslog: No, I would still consider them, they’re playing with Fourth Generation Warfare states, for the most part. They’re still the cellular organization, they’re using . . . , violence isn’t the end in itself. The terrorist action isn’t really what they’re trying to accomplish, it’s the message they’re trying to send to people. They’re trying to send some messages to those who are going to directly oppose them “hey, don’t mess with us, we’re powerful, we can cause mischief” but they’re also trying to draw attention to their cause, they’re going to try to get the government to overreact and whomp on them so they can, so other people go “that was way too much reaction by the U. S. Government, we feel bad for them.” Try to get the scrappy underdog effect. “Look at us! We’re the only ones out there fighting for animals, or for the environment, you should be sympathetic toward our cause, and perhaps give us money and take upon those views yourself.” That’s what they’re going after. That’s all Fourth Generation Warfare. It’s really Information Warfare, it’s message sending, trying to shape perceptions and minds there and get sympathy. It’s still Fourth Generation Warfare.

Brett: Can states harness Fifth Generation Warfare? Can you think of an instance where states can harness Fifth Generation Warfare to their advantage?

purpleslog: It won’t be states directly. It will be people outside the state doing for the benefit of the state, or one of these samll groups inside the state, and i’ll give you an example of the United States did this. This was the post World War II group that set up the institution and the framework that really let us to win the Cold War. By the end of the Cold War, when the Soviet Union actually fell, if you were around then, around the U. S. population, most of the U. S. population really wasn’t that sympathetic toward fighting the fight against the Soviet Union anymore. people weren’t really interested in confronting them. There was large [unintelligible] looking at many U. S. institutions and across academic communities, ther were people overtly, openly sympathetic with the opposition cause. But the guys, the 1947’ers, let’s call ’em that, they put in play the institutions, the military-industrial complex, they got national and global institutions in place so we kind of fought the Cold War in some ways on automatic. Even as support and sympathy for that effort fell, it was still in place and kept going. If you look at it in some ways that effort they put in place, the military-industrial complex, is still there now. The opponent it was put in to place to fight is gone, but it was such a strong set of tools it still exists even though it’s primary mission now is gone.

Brett: So you’re saying these guys, for example, at the end of World War II when OSS was about to be disbanded, Harry Truman indicated that he did not want a Central Intelligence Agency kind of a framework to happen, the guys who kind of quietly labored behind the scenes in secret at the pentagon and the old OSS who gave birth to that Cold War fighting situation, that would be 5GW?

purpleslog: Truman and his guys put together the containment strategy, and help set up NATO, and doing all those things. NATO and the other institutions like that around the world, which were meant in some ways to put a institutional boundary around the Soviet Union from the rest of the non-Soviet world. Those guys put in place the institutions, the military-industrial complex to build the weapons, to actually fight the Soviet Union if need be, and to challenge them economically. Those things that were put in place were soon ran on automatic in the ’50’s and the ’60’s and the ’70’s. I’m not sure that’s the only reason the Cold War was won but it certainly increased the chances of eventually the West triumphing over the Soviet Union. That’s an example of Fifth Generation Warfare. They did small changes, they were behind the scenes, nobody at the time really fully understood at the time I think what they were doing and what they were accomplishing, and when they wer long gone and out of government the changes they made, the steps they put in place, the programs they did, ran on automatic, and even when I say a plurality, it’s not even a majority of U. S. citizens [unintelligible] there was a re-vote on the whole anti-Soviet program in 1976, i don’t know if it would have won. But it didn’t matter, because these 5G’ers back in th elat ’40’s put in place where it didn’t need to be re-voted on. Even if the U. S. population’s morale and will wasn’t there what they put in place was going to work and run on regardless. Now we can do the same sort of thing nowadays today. One big deficiency the United States has is short-term thinking and i don’t think we have a will to be in a decades long fight. If you want to fight al Qaeda, or some other similar type groups, you need to put in a counterterrorist/anti-terrorist/anti-al Qaeda Fifth Generation Warfare effort put in place now, today, to fight that kind of fight long-term.

Brett: Do you believe the United States has the will power to do that, or are we so short-sighted that we want the quick resolution?

purpleslog: I think the U. S. for the most part we want the quick resolution. U. S. citizens, we, we tend to not, I don’t think we like to begin wars. I think when we’re in ’em we like to win ’em and win ’em fast and move on to the next thing, making some money, that sort of thing, living our lives. And that’s where a Fifth Generation Warfare effort can come in here, is to behind the scenes, put in place the institutions and and things you need to fight. One area in my part of the blogosphere where we kind of read like the Thomas Barnett stuff [unintelligible] United States, and what you can probably do is set up the institution to do in Barnett’s phrase, the SysAdmin type work that can be used to shrink the gap, shrink the dangerous places in the world, all the dangers to the United States comes from these gap areas which for the most part doesn’t include the Middle Eastern areas. A Fifth Generation Warfare effort to fight the Middle Eastern sorts of terrorism would be to set up a military-industrial SysAdmin complex, to put in, to be in place now, the institutions needed to shrink the gap so even there isn’t the will that’s there to do it, the leaders 20 years from now will already have the tools in front of them.

Brett: This is very revolutionary thinking, and what I’m visualizing is legions of civil libertarians going out of their minds saying “The U. S. Constitution does not provide for perpetual motion machines fighting terrorists.” So how would you then, even though you’re right, I believe you’re right, how would you answer those charges, that all this sounds very extra-Constitutional, that these become institutions that are not accountable to the elected officials in Washington?

purpleslog: Well, you know, NATO was set up [unintelligible] treaties [unintelligible] approval by the Senate. [unintelligible] SysAdmin, military SysAdmin complex, you’re just going to be giving leaders at the federal level additonal tools. The thing is right now they see a lot of nails. They got hammers, so things look like nails to them. Leaders, when a crisis come up, they have a problem to solve, they don’t have time, then, to spend say, with the U. S national security establishment, you don’t have five years to rebuild and reshape your institutions at that time. When 9/11 came up the united States really had a Second Generation military, big industrial, attritition might. And some small manuever forces and some Special Ops type forces. We didn’t have time at that point to over night rebuild what the United States needed as far as mostly a counterinsurgency force, so we went to war in Iraq and what not with the forces we had. If your view is that the grand strategy of the United States needs to be shrink the gap going forward, that’s going to be what our generation’s involvement for the next twenty years, let’s get the leaders who 10-15 years from now are going to have to be making what is to them a short-term decision, let’s get them tools now that they’re going to need then, to do that mission. That’s the way we’ll have to do it. If they have the tools available they will make short-term decisions to use those tools to solve problems. If they don’t have the right tools then, they will use tools that are not perfect for the job to try to achieve perhaps the same effect without much result.

Brett: Well this is very cool. This is almost reminiscent of like an Eastern mindset, where the war takes a hundred years to win and you’ve got to be willing to fight that war for a hundred years in a variety of ways.

purpleslog: Absolutely [unintelligible]. This is for United States citizens to get their state, the United States, to win this longish type war that we’re fighting.

Brett: Final question for you. I’m talking to purpleslog about Fifth Generation Warfare. I’m Bett Winterble. This is Covert Radio. Is there a Sixth Generation Warfare?

purpleslog: Well, you know, we’ve discussed that a little bit. I think the consensus among our group and my personal conclusion is no. In our view the Generation Warfare, I’m not really discussing technology at all here. So, ou can see the Generations of War in our way kind of existing throughout time, perhaps. I’m not sure wher the next place is going. We’ve mapped it to like the uh the Boyd OODA loop and I’m really not sure where you go from here to Sixth Generation Warfare. Perhaps, when there’s a technological singularity in a number of years the world will change so much we’ll have to reset and start everything from scratch, but right now I don’t see what would come next. If right now you’re looking at the situation in warfare as perhaps the atomic unit, the atomic actor being individual, how do you get smaller than that? How do you disperse kinetics more? I’m not sure where you would go from that.

Brett: Well I’ll tell you, this has been an incredibly insightful conversation, and purpleslog, where do people go to your blog, obviously if they’re on my blog they can link to your blog directly, but where can my audience go and find the stuff thast you’re working on here?

purpleslog: My own personal blog is at http://purpleslog.wordpress.com/ and i co-blog with a bunch of other Fifth Generation Warfare theorists at Dreaming 5GW dotcom.

Brett: That’s fantastic. purp, thanks so much for your time. I really want to come back and visit with you from time to time as we move forward here on Covert Radio. I think you brought a whole new kind of insight into this and i’m really appreciative for the pink.

purpleslog: Well thanks a lot.

Brett: What a fascinating interview we just had with purpleslog. I do appreciate his time and I hope he’ll come back again in the near future. I would invite you to continue to listen to this show, to learn and to exploreareas that you might not otherwise be familiar with. I would invite you to expand your horizons. and to enjoy the fruits of the labor of the staff here at Covert Radio. Don’t forget, coming up, later in the week, it’ll be the special show we do every week with Long War Journal.org’s Bill Roggio, wher we’ll take a look at the Long War from his perspective. Thank you for joining me. Thank you for listening. And we’ll see you next time here on Covert Radio.

Damn. I’m tired. Yankee isn’t my first language. That was tough for a bitter clinging in-bred banjo-picking canoeist-sodomizin’ typical white person like me. Brett, if there is a copyright issue I’ll take this post down. Be glad to post it over on your blog. purp, come edit the [unintelligible].

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7 Comments

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7 responses to “Homemade Transcript of “5th Generation Warfare–What does it all mean?”

  1. covertradioshow

    Hey thanks Cannoneer! That’s a mighty high honor that you would transcribe it for me! Hope you enjoyed listening as much as I enjoyed hosting/producing…

  2. Thanks for the transcript! Very useful stuff, and must have taken a lot of work and patience.

  3. There is much that I wish I could do that i can’t. I could do this, so I did. Just trying to walk the Strategic Citizen talk. See a need, fill it if you can, don’t ask permission, just do it.

  4. suek

    I don’t know what Generation War it is, but imo, the establishment of _bureaucracy_ belongs in there somewhere. England has this as a problem, and we’re getting there. A really substantial bureaucracy will absolutely paralyze a nation. Nothing really gets done. The only ones who can get things done are the elites who are high enough on the governmental scale to bypass the bureaucratic requirements.
    And, of course, if you can get your operatives in – like the Dems have in the State department and CIA, so much the better.
    The generation after that will be a regency or dictatorship that can wipe away the bureaucracy and free the society to get things _done_!

  5. All civilizations have had bureaucracies. Written language was invented to enable Sumerian bureaucrats to keep better tax records.

    Knowledge is power, and the power of the bureaucrat is knowledge of the files. The bureaucrat is the functionary who remembers what the government did last time the latest crisis had to be dealt with. Continuity between ruling factions makes quadrennial regime change easier than it would otherwise be.

    Legislators can’t administer. Administration requires bureaucracy. Bureaucracies provide both the expertise to get done whatever might get done but also the scapegoat for politicians to use in deflecting blame from themselves.

    There are some decent bureaucrats toiling away in anonymity in cubicle farms in Northern Virginia and Maryland. Those aren’t the ones you hear about.

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