Friday, July 20, 2007

5GW Fragments

I started this blog earlier this year to serve a few purposes, one of which was to be a repository for some things I had written as comments on other blogs. Over the past few years I have done a lot of commenting and over that time I found certain themes recurring again and again: entrepreneurship, the strategic citizen, updating classical liberalism for the 21st century, developing a 21st century vision for the American Experiment, centralized industrial age institutions vs. decentralized information age institutions, and the whole idea/information/meme/media/psychological-war thing. One of the most important sparks to my thinking was in response to the initial posts by Zenpundit and tdaxp on 5th Generation Warfare back in 2005. My contribution to the discussion was pretty meager (a few comments and one guest post, all reposted below) but the basic ideas I think are still valid. I'm not a big fan of the generational model and so decided to drop out of the 5GW discussion and explore these ideas in other terms (e.g. the strategic citizen waging a meme/idea war for cultural hegemony) without worrying whether this or that idea merits the title of "5GW".

Quick thought: Maybe 5GW is a kind of Manchurian Candidate type thing. An enemy actually tries to get its agents in a democratic country elected to office and then to use that position to undermine it.
Perhaps the Left is already 5GW. In 4GW the enemy attempts to influence the media and culture to undermine a country's war effort, but maybe in 5GW the enemy seeks to become the country's media, university and grade school teachers, writers, artists, etc. They become the purveyors of culture. A kind of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" strategy.

Wow! This is good stuff Dan. 

I just read the ZenPundit piece and was blown away and left a comment there and then came over here and was blown away again. 

"A 5th Generation War might be fought with one side not knowing who it is fighting. Or even, a brilliantly executed 5GW might involve one side completely ingorant that there ever was a war."

First thought: The Long March Through the Institutions. 
The success of the left in promoting their ideas where the people who adopt them actually and honestly deny that they are socialists. This is especially focused at the US which is the only real threat to the spread of socialism. The threat here is not Islamic fundamentalism, they have no chance of converting the American people. The threat is our old friend socialism, which has been working hard to undermine our entrepreneurial, individualist culture.

Every 5th Generation War will be different, perhaps so different that they don’t seem to even belong in the same category. But if we accept some general features then we can explore some of the possibilities that follow from them. In an earlier post, Dan offers some significant thoughts:

If traditional war centered on an enemy's physical strength, and 4GW on his moral strength, the 5th Generation of War would focus on his intellectual strength. A 5th Generation War might be fought with one side not knowing who it is fighting. Or even, a brilliantly executed 5GW might involve one side being completely ignorant that there ever was a war. It's like the old question of what was the perfect robbery: we will never know, because in a perfect robbery the bank would not know that it was robbed.
The two elements that Dan highlights above are very important. 5GW isn’t just about using ideas to undermine the will of a people or government to fight, but about undermining a country’s ability to defend itself intellectually, one could say that it is an existential campaign that calls into question the very legitimacy of that country’s existence. A campaign that a country may not even be conscious of. So how would this be accomplished?
Mark at Zenpundit points out:
A strong possibility exists that given successive generations of warfare tend to drive "deeper" into enemy territory, that 5GW will mean systemic liquidation of enemy networks and their sympathizers, essentially a total war on a society or subsection of a society. There is no where " deeper" for 5GW to go but here.
How deep is deep? In 5GW the enemy might be a state or a foreign non-state actor or something homegrown. Whatever its source it would require that there be citizens willing to intentionally seek the defeat of their own country, or citizens who could be persuaded to adopt behaviors and ideas that would lead to defeat whether it was intentional or not. But the enemy in this case would realize that they can’t win a conventional war or even a 4th Generation War, so they devise deeper tactics. In 4GW the enemy attempts to use the target country’s media as a vehicle to sap the people’s and political leaders’ will to fight. In 5GW the enemy actually becomes the media and the political leadership. In 4GW a terrorist organization might attack a school or a courthouse in order to show that the government can’t defend itself; in 5GW the enemy would become the teachers and judges. It doesn’t get much deeper than that. And so a country might never know as Dan states above, that it is even at war or who the enemy is, or that they have lost the war.
So is there a role for the military, intelligence and law enforcement agencies? The 5GW operatives in democratic societies will remain “invisible” to the state unless they are inciting violence, plotting or engaging in illegal activity. And things become much more complicated if  they actually become the judges, intelligence officers, diplomats, policy makers etc. I don’t really think there is a major role for the state in this kind of intellectual war, but rather think that ideas have to be fought with ideas, and that the people who want to defend their country from this kind of attack need to develop their own 5th generation tactics independent of the state.
Now, we are just brainstorming here, trying to sketch out some of the details of a potential 5th Generation of War. Thinking about this is like trying to see something at night. You catch a glimpse of something in your peripheral vision, then look directly at it and it disappears. Then you look away and can again see it in your peripheral vision. This can make you wonder whether there is really something there to see.
 A lot of questions still need answers. Does a 5th generation campaign need to be violent in order to be war? If war is politics by other means, then is 5GW war by other means? How do we distinguish, in a free society, between the legitimate promotion of ideas and policies and a 5th Generation War on our “intellectual strength”?

This was a comment I left as part of the discussion on the previous post.

If 5GW takes aim at a country's "intellectual strength" then Gramsci's idea of "counter-hegemony" is certainly one way of doing that, though not necessarily the only way. Although Gramsci devised that strategy to further his own socialist beliefs, the strategy itself can be used by adherents of any ideology. 

If this strategy is 4G then isn't focusing on intellectual strength also 4G? After all 4G can involve attacks on culture, ideals and beliefs. The problem seems that while we are able to identify characteristics of 4G, we still haven't defined it's boundaries. If we don't know where it ends, then how do we know where 5G begins? 

How important is secrecy? After all if you can accomplish your goal without being secret, then why go through the trouble? You're right Dan that the American left was certainly not shy about their ambitions, and while people like Buckley were aware of those ambitions, in the end it really didn't matter, they were successful anyway. In a free society it is possible to "hide in plain sight." You could publish your intentions and give lectures and chances are most people will just ignore you or dismiss you as a kook, and you could just go about your business as if you were operating in secret. 

For Gramsci, developing intellectuals and dominating intellectual institutions was not the goal, but the means. The goal was "hegemony":

"By hegemony, Gramsci meant the permeation throughout society of an entire system of values, attitudes, beliefs and morality that has the effect of supporting the status quo in power relations. Hegemony in this sense might be defined as an 'organising principle' that is diffused by the process of socialisation into every area of daily life. To the extent that this prevailing consciousness is internalised by the population it becomes part of what is generally called 'common sense' so that the philosophy, culture and morality of the ruling elite comes to appear as the natural order of things."
I have more questions than answers on this topic and I offer these thoughts as part of the brainstorming process. I don't know where we're going to end up, but it sure is a fun ride.

"In 5GW the enemy's knowledge of your existence all but ends your plans."

Not necessarily. Let's say a 5GW campaign were under way and I had a "fingertip feeling" that led me to actually "see" it. It's entirely likely if I tried to tell other people what was going on that they would simply dismiss me as paranoid and a conspiracy nut, even accuse me of McCarthyism and witch-hunting. If the 5th generation warrior is doing something illegal he will eventually draw the attention of law enforcement. But if the 5GW tactics are legal, then law enforcement won't be a problem. Which means that citizens who become aware of the 5GW campaign will have to act on their own within the law but outside of government and operate a counter-5GW campaign. Nothing remains secret forever especially in a free society, but legal activities can be done out in the open without attracting attention because they appear to be run-of-the-mill and normal, certainly nothing to be concerned about. Free societies offer the 5th generation warrior the ability to "hide in plain sight" and still be able to pull off a victory without the loser being aware of what happened.


PurpleSlog said...

"I found certain themes recurring again and again: entrepreneurship, the strategic citizen, updating classical liberalism for the 21st century, developing a 21st century vision for the American Experiment, centralized industrial age institutions vs. decentralized information age institutions, and the whole idea/information/meme/media/psychological-war thing."

I hope you will keep blogging/commenting on these ideas (5GW context or not). Those are the kind of stuff I read blogs for.

Dan tdaxp said...

Extremely good comments. I agree with your reaction to the Polished + Formless post, btw.

Opened Eyes said...

Any chance that an example of successful 5GW are the Fabians?
I think everything they wanted except for universal health care (in the US) has been enacted by governments.

Dan tdaxp said...

They openly agitated for it and openly faced their opponents in a political debate, making universal health care a 4G movement.

phil said...

Thanks for the link. I have been intending to do more writing on these subjects than I have done up to this point. I'd also like to try to actually do something more than just think about this stuff. So we'll see...

Thanks, I appreciate the comments.

Opened Eyes,
Unfortunately I don't know enough about the Fabians to answer your question. They did have success in disseminating their ideas and so I would like to study them to learn about their techniques.