Fourth Generation Warfare

The Fourth Generation Warfare Handbook

By William S. Lind

Traditional Right

The Fourth Generation Warfare Handbookco-authored by Lt. Col. Greg Thiele and myself, is now available on Amazon. At present, it is only an e-book; the real book should be available early next year. The publisher is Castalia House Press.

The Fourth Generation Warfare Handbook is a follow-on to my Maneuver Warfare Handbook, which was published in 1985 and is still in print. The new book’s origins lie in the Fourth Generation Warfare seminar Lt. Col. Thiele and I taught for some years at the Marine Corps’ Expeditionary Warfare School. That seminar wrote a number of field manuals for 4GW, published as manuals of the K.u.K. Austro-Hungarian Marine Corps. Greg and I distilled the content of those manuals, added a good bit of material of our own (especially on true light infantry, normally the most effective force against 4GW opponents) and have published it in a form we think will reach more readers than have the field manuals.

The new book presumes the reader is familiar with the framework of the Four Generations of Modern War, although it does offer a summary of the first three generations in an appendix. After a discussion of the theory of 4GW which focuses on the dilemmas it poses to state armed forces, dilemmas which usually lead state militaries to defeat themselves, it turns to the practical problems 4GW presents. This is consistent with its nature as a handbook: its purpose is not academic discussion but providing useful ideas to those serving in state forces.

One of the potentially most useful tools it offers is the grid: a nine-box square with the three traditional levels of war, tactical, operational, and strategic, on the vertical axis and Col. John Boyd’s three new levels, physical, mental, and moral, on the horizontal axis. State armed forces (including police) can use the grid to evaluate planned missions by asking what results the mission is likely to bring in each of the nine boxes.

At present, most missions are evaluated in only one box, the tactical/physical. These are the two weakest levels of war. The blowback the mission brings at more powerful levels, especially the most powerful box, strategic/moral, helps explain why state militaries usually lose Fourth Generation wars. By using the grid to anticipate negative results at higher and more powerful levels, it may be possible to avoid those negative effects by changing what is done tactically and physically.

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