[ISN] The Sling And The Stone

InfoSec News isn at c4i.org
Tue Nov 9 06:53:11 EST 2004


[ http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0760320594/c4iorg  - WK]

Commentary by William S. Lind
November 8, 2004

For at least a decade, Colonel Tom Hammes has been one of the Marine
Corps. leading intellectuals.  His new book, The Sling and the Stone,
should be read by anyone who has an interest in Fourth Generation
warfare (4GW).

In some ways, this is two books in one.  One book describes Fourth
Generation war and the reforms our military needs in order to fight
it, and here Colonel Hammes is at his best.  His distinction between
the first and second intifadas is especially valuable.  He writes that
the Palestinians won the first intifada because they were careful to
present themselves as victims of a vastly more powerful Israeli
military.  Avoiding the use of weapons other than the stone, and
taking full advantage of the television camera, the Palestinians
.transformed (Israel) from the tiny, brave nation surrounded by
hostile Arab nations to the oppressive state that condoned killing
children in the street.  This is the power of weakness which is
central to Fourth Generation war.

In contrast, in the second (al-Aqsa) intifada, the Palestinians
resorted to violence, including suicide bombers, and gave up the power
of weakness. Hammes writes, It is almost impossible to overstate how
perfectly Arafat and the radical elements in Palestinian resistance
have supported the Israeli effort. Their suicide bombing campaign has
given Israel complete freedom of action.  As is so often the case in
the Fourth Generation, what seems weak is strong and what seems strong
is weak.

Hammes' descriptions of the situations in Iraq and Afghanistan are
equally good.  So is his analysis of the Pentagon.s faith that future
wars will be decided by high technology.  Correctly, he argues that
developments such as the Internet favor our Fourth Generation
adversaries, because they have flat, cooperative organizations while
we are stuck with industrial-age, bureaucratic hierarchies.  In
effect, they are the free market while we represent the
centrally-planned Soviet economy. Finally, Hammes' proposed reforms,
while largely derivative, are also mostly sound.

The second book is a book on military theory, and here Hammes is on
less solid ground. He makes a major error early, in that he equates
Fourth Generation war with insurgency. In doing so, he equates the
Fourth Generation with how war is fought. It is usually fought
guerilla-style, but that misses the point: what changes in the Fourth
Generation is who fights and what they fight for. This error leads to
others, such as believing that Fourth Generation war focuses on the
mental level.  Hammes writes, .The fourth generation has arrived.  It
uses all available networks, political, economic, social and military
to convince the enemy's political decision makers that their strategic
goals are either unachievable or too costly for the perceived benefit.  
In fact, Fourth Generation war focuses on the moral level, where it
works to convince all parties, neutrals as well as belligerents, that
the cause for which a Fourth Generation entity is fighting is morally
superior. It turns its state enemies inward against themselves on the
moral level, making the political calculations of the mental level

Hammes still makes some useful contributions to Fourth Generation
theory.  For example, his short discussion of a difficult theoretical
problem, the role of the OODA loop in Fourth Generation war, notes
that, .the focus is no longer on the speed of the decision but on a
correct understanding of the situation.  Observation and orientation
become the critical elements of the observation - orientation -
decision - action [OODA] loop.  I think the OODA loop's originator,
Colonel John Boyd, might agree with that.

But in the end, Colonel Hammes remains trapped in the framework of the
state.  He writes that 4GW in itself cannot win a decisive victory:  
The techniques [of 4GW] can only weaken the enemy.s will and reduce
his resources to the point that a conventional military campaign can
defeat him entirely.  In fact, Fourth Generation war can unravel a
state opponent so completely that he ceases to exist.  We saw that
with the Soviet Union, we are seeing it now with Israel, and if the
United States fails to isolate itself from the Fourth Generation we
may see it here as well.

William S. Lind, expressing his own personal opinion, is Director for
the Center for Cultural Conservatism for the Free Congress Foundation.

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