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Friday, February 23, 2018

A little light reading

Featuring a foreword by the brilliant Israeli military theorist Martin van Creveld, On War is a fascinating book that is a must-listen for every military professional, wargamer, and amateur student of the art of war.

On War is a seven-year collection of columns written by the father of 4th Generation War theory while observing the US invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq. It is an intriguing account of a war in progress, as seen through the eyes of a military theorist able to anticipate events with an almost prophetic degree of accuracy. Throughout the book, 4GW theory is defined, described, and refined as events in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other places demonstrate the theory's utility in making sense of current events and predicting future ones. The inevitable failure of the New Iraqi Army and the US-installed al-Maliki government is explained years in advance, as is the rise of the Islamic State and other 4th Generation forces presently battling for power in post-occupation Iraq.

Lind also makes an ominous, but compelling case for the gradual spread of 4th Generation chaos and the decline of the state throughout the world, including in the United States of America. In one of the key passages of the book, Lind writes: "4th Generation war is the greatest change since the Peace of Westphalia, because it marks the end of the state's monopoly on war. All over the world, state militaries are fighting non-state opponents, and almost always, the state is losing."

William S. Lind is one of the most significant and influential military theorists on the planet. The author of the Maneuver Warfare Handbook and a founder of 4th Generation War theory, Mr. Lind is known and respected by military personnel around the world.

On War: The Collected Columns of William S. Lind 2003-2009 is narrated by Bob Allen and is 26 hours and 42 minutes long. Highly recommended. An excerpt:

How NOT to Use Light Armored Vehicles
August 13, 2003

One day in the late 1970's, when I was a defense staffer for Senator Gary Hart, I got a call from an Armed Services Committee staffer asking if I knew anything about Light Armored Vehicles (LAVs), which are what we used to call armored cars. A bit, I replied. What did I think of them, he asked? I said I liked them for operational maneuver, because they are wheeled, and most operational (as opposed to tactical) movement is on roads.

That was the beginning of the Marine Corps' LAV program. We soon roped in a one-star at Quantico named Al Gray, and within a few years the Corps had acquired some LAVs. The concept for which they were purchased was very clear: to form Soviet-style Operational Maneuver Groups for use against Third World countries. We all knew that LAVs are tactically fragile, and must be used in ways that avoid heavy combat. We also knew that the tank the U.S. armed forces were then buying, the M-1, was too heavy and used too much fuel to be able to maneuver rapidly over operational distances. The LAVs could fill the gap.

As one of the Ur-Vaters of the Marines' LAV program, I was pleased to hear a couple years ago that the Army was now also planning to buy LAVs. Good, I thought; they too have recognized that the M-1 is more a Sturmgeschuetz or a Jagdpanzer than a real tank, and they need something else for operational maneuver. These are also known as “tank destroyers”, Jagdpanzer literally translates as “tank hunter”. I should have known better, given that we are talking about the U.S. Army. Nonetheless, it was with unbelief, then horror, that I learned what the Army was really buying Strykers for: urban combat. And now, the first Stryker units are to be sent to Iraq.

The magnitude of the idiocy involved in using Light Armored Vehicles in urban fighting, where they are grapes for RPGs, is so vast that analogies are difficult. Maybe one could compare it to planning a fireworks display on board the Hindenburg. Urban combat is extremely dangerous for any armored vehicle, including the heaviest tanks, as the Israelis can testify after losing several Merkavas in the Gaza strip to some very big mines. Why? Because for opposing fighters, regular infantry or guerillas, the old sequence from the German “men against tanks” is easy. The sequence is, “blind 'em, stop 'em, kill 'em.” Armored vehicles are already blind in cities because distances are short; the safest place near a hostile tank is as close to it as you can get since then it can't see you. Stopping tanks is also easy, because streets are often narrow enough to prevent vehicles from turning around.

And with LAVs, once they are blinded and stopped, killing them is very easy because the armor is, well, light. That's why they are called Light Armored Vehicles.

In the first phase of the war in Iraq, the jousting contest, the Marine Corps lost M-1 tanks and it lost Amtracks, its amphibious personnel carrier. But it lost no LAVs. That is a testament, not to the vehicles, but to how they were employed.

But in the second phase of the Iraq war, and in future phases as well, there will be no role for operational maneuver. And there will be no role for LAVs or Strykers. If the Army insists on sending them into Iraqi towns and cities, they should first equip them with coffin handles, because all they will be is coffins for their crews.

When I first came to Washington in 1973, I was quickly introduced to an old saying about the American armed forces: the Air Force is deceptive, the Navy is dishonest, and the Army is dumb. It seems some things never change.

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27 Comments:

Blogger David The Good February 23, 2018 3:55 PM  

This book is eerily prophetic at points. It's also fascinating for anyone who has even the slightest interest in tactics, the military, or America's foreign policy.

Blogger Sam Spade February 23, 2018 4:13 PM  

4th generation warfare was the best non fiction book I read last year.

Very insightful on a very important topic nowadays. Also short and focused.

Anonymous Anonymous February 23, 2018 5:09 PM  

"William S. Lind is one of the most significant and influential military theorists on the planet"

Amen, brother, amen.

I think I read most every one of those essays as they came out, but to have them all together will be great. Thanks for bring this to my attention. Most appreciated.

Anonymous Anonymous February 23, 2018 5:22 PM  

I'm glad you're publishing this. I've been following Lind for years. I agree with 85% of what he says; he's a really acute thinker. On his recommendation, I even read up on the Kaiser (The Last Kaiser: The Life of Wilhelm II, by Giles MacDonogh) to find he's not as ridiculous as everyone supposes.

Blogger BassmanCO February 23, 2018 5:22 PM  

Used an Audible credit. Glad to be able to support Castalia House.

Blogger cheddarman February 23, 2018 5:57 PM  

After you read this, you should also be able to understand how Russia was able to successfully (so far) defend its strategic interests in Syria

Blogger Daniel Paul Grech Pereira February 23, 2018 6:26 PM  

Is this going to make me bloodthirsty again?

Blogger Stephen February 23, 2018 6:32 PM  

"4th generation warfare" is what happens when the ordered military are not willing to "Make a desert and call it peace.". There is nothing new about irregular warfare, it is just the empire hobbling itself.

Blogger VD February 23, 2018 7:17 PM  

"4th generation warfare" is what happens when the ordered military are not willing to "Make a desert and call it peace.". There is nothing new about irregular warfare, it is just the empire hobbling itself.

You're wrong and you're ignorant. This is really not the place for that sort of willful stupidity.

Blogger LP999-16 February 23, 2018 7:27 PM  

Wonderful reading thank you, I adore Martin van Creveld and Lind, wonderful immense reading!

Blogger newbietrader February 23, 2018 8:26 PM  

old saying about the American armed forces: the Air Force is deceptive, the Navy is dishonest, and the Army is dumb. It seems some things never change. +10000

Blogger Emmanuel Mateo-Morales February 23, 2018 8:37 PM  

@9

Gee, I wonder when actual powered armor, IE, armored and power exoskeletons, and not just full body fuck harnesses some people think is a good idea without at least slapping some AR500 or AR550 steel to cover the most important stuff, will make urban combat completely obsolete in the same way lasers are supposed to make air power completely obsolete.

Blogger newbietrader February 23, 2018 8:40 PM  

There is nothing new about irregular warfare, it is just the empire hobbling itself.

You're wrong and you're ignorant. This is really not the place for that sort of willful stupidity.

you're the one whose wrong

asymmetrical warfare has been around for centuries, it was just called something else. think of robin hood the insurgent against prince john the state back in the middle ages. ( yes, I know it;s a fictional story but the idea has been around longer than that)

back then the state would burn villages and kill women and children whatever was required to drive the insurgency to ground where it could be killed.

Now, rules of engagement say things like no shooting at mosques, well ahmed figured out pretty quick, he could shoot up a Marine patrol and then hide in the mosque. while we finally decided to bomb Monte Casino Abbey in WWII,how many mosques have we hit with a drone strike? the state hobbling itself

the VC/NVA used the Ho Chi Min trail in Laos and Cambodia to supply their troops, we refused to go into Laos and Cambodia on the ground. the supplies continued to flow. the state hobbling itself.

the fought inter generational 4g warfare with few if any rules, we half fought a semi conventional war with restrictive rules of engagement, of course we lost

Blogger Dire Badger February 23, 2018 9:13 PM  

Hell, You lose Amtracs just about every time you deploy on anything other than glass. Nothing like frantically scrambling for the exits as the damned things drown.
In our group I don't think we lost a single one to 'enemy action'. LCAC's are much more fragile, though... Hovering at 25 knots is awfully cool, but in front of that GIGANTIC CLOUD of seawater is a vehicle with the approximate characteristics of a can of spam with a model rocket engine on the back.

Urban combat is the best, if not the only, reason to take the EKSO stuff very seriously... while we are a long way away from 'power armor', being able to carry really heavy personal armor and squad weapons as an individual would give us a huge advantage...mobility is king in Urban conflict, so basically ANY armor (even some projected power armor) loses out to infantry enhancement gear.

Improved 4th Gen war is the way to bet in Urban conflict. Heavy Armor has always been more of a terror weapon than a useful platform.

Blogger Dire Badger February 23, 2018 9:17 PM  

Armor technology is always in a losing position against weapons technology.

The only place where heavy vehicles really belong is where infantry cannot go.

Blogger Bobiojimbo February 23, 2018 9:18 PM  

I would also recommend On Killing by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman. Forgive me for recommending a competitor's book. I found Grossman's analysis engulfing. It's also frightening to learn how similar psychological tactics are employed by both AntiFa and the US Military.

This book sounds exceptional as well. I need to read faster...

Blogger Thucydides February 23, 2018 9:58 PM  

As a compliment I would recommend "The Sling and the Stone", by Colonel Thomas X. Hammes USMC. His definition of 4GW si somewhat different than other people's, and it suggests at least some possible ways to find a counter:

"Fourth-generation warfare (4GW) 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. It is an evolved form of insurgency. Still rooted in the fundamental precept that superior political will, when properly employed, can defeat greater economic and military power, 4GW makes use of society’s networks to carry on its fight. Unlike previous generations of warfare, it does not attempt to win by defeating the enemy’s military forces. Instead, via the networks, it directly attacks the minds of enemy decision makers to destroy the enemy’s political will. Fourth-generation wars are lengthy — measured in decades rather than months or years."

The counter, if this is an accurate description of the 4GW model, is "Attack the Network: (AtN) methodologies, to find and disrupt the networks being used against the will of "our" decision makers.

The other thing to consider is the Westphalian State overcame all competing political organizations because it was more efficient at gathering and managing resources than any competing models at the time (and even to the present day). So at some point, if the will to use the resources is still there, the ability to deploy resources is going to become a factor (I'm thinking of Siri Lanka's war against the LTTE).

Blogger Akulkis February 23, 2018 10:48 PM  

Just read "On Killing" last summer during annual training. Battalion chaplain saw it in my pile of stuff at the register at the PX and voluntarily affirmef that it was a worthwhile book. One of the best I've ever read..

Blogger Dire Badger February 24, 2018 12:03 AM  

@15-
Theucydides, What I think he was suggesting was more the default state of ALL state conflict, rather than the specifics of 4G warfare.

The defaults of all state conflict is to rid their opponents of their will to resist, whether that is through sanctions, propaganda, warfare, or diplomatic maneuvers, which is aptly summed up by your excerpt.

I don't consider the excerpt particularly innovative, however... since it's been kicking around as long as Sun Tzu. Acceptable expansion on that principle, however.

4G warfare is about using tactical Judo... exploiting the fact that you are the disorganized underdog in order to defeat your opponents. One of the reasons America is so... incredibly unready to fight that sort of war is because we almost instinctively root for the underdog as a cultural default.

In a very real way, the reason why the far right is winning consistently right now is that in general, we are USED to fighting a 4G war against nearly insurmountable odds. Truth, by it's very nature, is always more compact than lies, because there is only one truth... for every truth there can be an unlimited number of lies to conceal it.

Anonymous Anonymous February 24, 2018 2:46 AM  

The number of militaries who supplemented their urban assaults group (or urban defenses for that matter) with armored vehicles whenever there were some available is only every single one of them. Not all got good results out of that, but, well, not all militaries are more competent than their opponents or competent at all. But specifically US Army in Iraq achieved a considerable string of successes and one-sided stomps through using armor in urban areas, whenever opposition presented itself openly. But I guess an armchair expert once again knows better.

Or it may be that he just repeating a common talking point for which people who think that videos of tanks blowing up on YouTube are more glamorous than those of infantry being cut down, are suspectible?

Blogger McChuck February 24, 2018 3:40 AM  

The case can be made that LAVs are more efficient (not better) than heavy armor in urban combat. They are cheaper, and we can thus afford to build and deploy more of them. If all armored vehicles are equally vulnerable, the least expensive (yet still effective) ones are the correct choice. All the armored vehicles need to be is bullet proof and mobile through broken terrain. Having a protected heavy weapon is handy, too. (Strykers fail on this point.)

Blogger Koanic February 24, 2018 4:14 AM  

Armor is great for urban combat, as long as you're not using them to compensate for infantry cowardice due to casualty aversion. Their proper function is reducing the rubble at range. The Russians know how.

Blogger Stephen February 24, 2018 6:02 AM  

A lot of exhaustion is heat exhaustion. So something simpler than power armour that can increase endurance is a cooling vest. Whether the extra weight of the cooling system is worth the trade off is the question though.

Anonymous Anonymous February 24, 2018 8:11 AM  

And there will be no role for LAVs or Strykers. If the Army insists on sending them into Iraqi towns and cities, they should first equip them with coffin handles, because all they will be is coffins for their crews.
......

And yet I watched Strykers operate effectively in Mosul and Baghdad. Especially Mosul where the ground air coordination between the Strykers and Kiowas was excellent.

Blogger Ryan G February 24, 2018 8:15 AM  

@21 Stephen - What are you trading off for it? Soldiers are already more laden down than pack mules. I know that Marines in particular usually carry more than 100 lbs in weight.

A good compromise would be some kind of body armor that weighed about the same but was attached via some kind of harness system that makes it stand off a quarter inch or so from the wearer. Research could also being put into making BDUs that don't melt like Under Armor but still have the same sweat-whicking properties. Believe me, BDUs in equatorial heat are hot enough without armor, but with armor its so bad that your feet become soaked from your own sweat.

Blogger peppermint88 February 24, 2018 5:32 PM  

People need to stop reciting slogans like asymmetic warfare is a farce or armor always loses. Not because the slogans are always wrong, but because everyone already knows them.

Vox, do I have to buy the book to find out how the LAVs could have been used more effectively in Iraq?

Blogger Thucydides February 24, 2018 11:08 PM  

Armour in urban settings is a mixed bag. It provides protected mobility and firepower that is far superior to the dismounted infantry, but the effects are very local (essentially as far as the vehicle crew can see). Being able to rapidly move a firebase does provide some tactical advantages to commanders who are skilled in finding good position and can take advantage of rapid and aggressive moves to displace the enemy. however, like every other tool in the toolbox, it is useful only in the right circumstances (and the very smart commanders don't become overly dependent on any one tool).

@17
I don't really disagree with what you are saying (the fundamental principles of war have been discovered and refined over recorded history). What made the excerpt interesting to me is it provides a possible means of countering 4GW, through identifying seams and gaps in the various networks and blocking or disrupting them at those points.

The Alt-Right is certainly exhibiting some of the tactics of Revolutionary Warfare Theory, and many of the disruptions against the Progressives control of institutions is through the disruption (usually by exposure) of the various Progressive networks of control, influence or finance.

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