Friday, July 20, 2007

Hoffman on 4GW

Frank Hoffman has posted the text of his talk on 4GW at the Boyd Conference over at the Small Wars Journal.

What some of the critics of 4GW have overlooked is the critical importance of the cognitive and virtual dimension of today’s conflicts. I expect several speakers to discuss this today. Now as we all know, T. E. Lawrence and the French expert Galula underscored this same issue in their seminal works. But the speed, frequency, and graphic imagery that is possible today with modern media is simply beyond their comprehension. It may still be beyond most of us. Recent scholarship by Dr. Audrey Cronin has persuasively compared the ongoing cyber-mobilization of Muslims around the world to the French Revolution and the levĂ©e en masse. This has profound implications for human conflict in this century as Dr. Cronin has perceptively warns “Western nations will persist in ignoring the fundamental changes in popular mobilization at their peril.”

Today’s 24/7 news cycles and graphic imagery produce even faster and higher response cycles from audiences around the globe and offer powerful new “weapons” to those who can master them.
Today, many small groups have mastered “armed theater” and promoted “propaganda of the deed” to arouse support and foment discord on a global scale. There is a plethora of outlets now in the Middle East and an exponentially growing number of websites and bloggers promoting a radical vision. These outlets constantly bombarded audiences with pictures, videos, DVDs, and sermons. Ironically, in Iraq and in the Long War we are facing a fundamentalist movement that is exploiting very modern and Western technologies to reestablish an anti-Western social and political system. The 4GW school, in its initial offering, identified the potential for this phenomena and the associated religious and cultural factors that might inspire it.
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Call it what you may, 4GW or Complex Irregular or Hybrid Warfare, it presents a mode of conflict that severely challenges America’s conventional military thinking. It targets the strategic cultural weaknesses of the American Way of Battle quite effectively. It’s chief characteristic—blurring and convergence—occurs in several modes. In the blurring of combat and conflict, combatants and noncombatants, and the physical and the metaphysical. The convergence of various types of conflict will present us with a complex puzzle until the necessary adaptation occurs intellectually and institutionally. This form of conflict challenges cherished but false American conceptions about warfighting, and will continue to thwart the West’s core interests and world order over the next generation.

Because of their perceived success, call them what you may, but 4GW challengers will not be a passing fad nor will they remain low tech killers. Our opponents eagerly learn and adapt rapidly to more efficient modes of killing. We can no longer overlook our own vulnerabilities as societies or underestimate the imaginations of our antagonists. In a world of 4 GW or Hybrid Wars, the price for complacency and inept strategy only grows steeper.

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