Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Political Activism as a Form of War

The usefulness of the generational model is primarily in showing the sequence of emergence of different forms of war. But if that is not what you are interested in then you need different models to categorize the forms of war based on what it is you are trying to do. For me I'm more interested in which forms of war are available to us right now. So the sequence of emergence over time is irrelevant. Today we can wage the forms of war identified in the generational model as 2G, 3G, and 4G, but not 1G. With the exception of 1GW the emergence of the succeeding generations did not make the previous generation obsolete, rather they gave war-fighters more options for waging war in different circumstances and for different purposes. So for someone looking at the various options available for accomplishing a particular mission or policy it doesn't matter which came first.

Once 4GW appears, an interesting thing happens: the main contest is not on the battlefield but what takes place in the realm of politics, society and culture. Because of this, political activism becomes more important than military action in that arena. As this phenomena continues to evolve, what would, in the past, have been wars fought with armies will be conflicts fought through non-violent political activism, without a battlefield component at all. Would this be a new generation of war? I don't know, it might not make sense to categorize it as war at all. But it would certainly be an option available to governments and civil society actors and so has to be included in thinking about war in the contemporary world. Within this context, political activism as war doesn't make 2G, 3G, 4G obsolete, rather it expands the potential means for individuals, civil society groups, and governments to accomplish goals, by exploiting the opportunities created by contemporary political, social, economic, and technological innovations.

This is one of the reasons that I have become more interested in political activism. After all once we recognize that politics and civil society have become the arena of conflict then the proper area of study moves from military history to the history of political movements to glean insights into how to organize and take action to counter a 4G, 5G, social netwar campaign or to initiate a campaign of our own. Unfortunately there is not the same kind of literature analyzing the strategies, tactics and organization of political movements that is the equivalent of the study of wars and battles. I have also noticed that many people interested in military affairs seem to be very resistant to the idea of considering political activism within the context of thinking about forms of war.

Curtis at Dreaming 5GW asks whether George Soros' political operations are a kind of 5GW or just normal politics. I think we have to consider the possibility that it may be both. If we had a radical Islamist group that was doing exactly what Soros is doing, even if it was not connected to terrorist organizations and so was doing nothing illegal, then I think it would be more clear that this is a form of waging war against a society via politics. What we are lacking is that category to describe activity that is like war in some respects but not quite war and is like politics in some respects but is more than just normal politics. Without that category we have a hard time comprehending certain types of activities and understanding which of our institutions should be mobilized to deal with it.

11 comments:

Dan tdaxp said...

The usefulness of the generational model is primarily in showing the sequence of emergence of different forms of war.

I disagree completely.

Cannoneer No. 4 said...

Politics is war without bloodshed while war is politics with bloodshed. -- Mao

Americans interested in military affairs for professional reasons are very resistant to the idea of considering political activism within the context of thinking about forms of war because they can't openly participate in it or even describe it without risk of offending the powerful and suffering retribution.

Traditional apolitical professionalism has worked well for us, so far.

phil said...

Dan,
Actually I don't think that we disagree, here's why-

Let me make a distinction: on the one hand is a model, in this case the generation model, that is used to identify patterns in something or to organize something in a certain way; on the other is that something the model is applied to, which in this case is warfare, but could be just about anything, e.g. history of the automobile, families, typewriters etc.

The generation model, independent of what it is applied to, presents information as a sequence of emergence of generations. That is the inherent nature of this model. Its primary usefulness is to give you that information: first this, then this, then this etc. So when I say: The usefulness of the generational model is primarily in showing the sequence of emergence of different forms of war. I'm saying that if we are going to apply that model to warfare, then we need to understand that the primary information it is giving us is the "sequence of emergence of generations" because that is how the model is structured. I go on to say that if that information isn't what you need then that model isn't appropriate to your needs.

In addition, if the subject the generational model is applied to doesn't actually emerge in succeeding generations, as you argue in your post, then that application of the model to that subject is inaccurate.

So, I agree with what you say in your post:

The generations of war do not spontaneously appear in history at some certain date...

Rather, each generation of war is a method, a technology, of enforcing ones will on others. Mao is often described as the Ur-Father of 4GW, but there's a good argument to be made that Jesus and Paul deserve that title, too. I would not be surprised if future examination of ancient Chinese writing reveal 4GW thousands of years ago, either.
...
While different organizations may be more or less likely to employ this or that generation in order to enforce their will, every generational is theoretically employable.


However, perhaps the generation model could be more accurately applied as cycles of generations, recognizing that while these different forms of war have always existed, they may emerge as specific manifestations within different eras in a way that has a generational pattern. I don't know and as I said in my post that is not my main concern, I'm interested in what capabilities we have now and so I would prefer a model that is organized to provide that information and one that includes non-violent political activism as a form of war.

So what I am saying in my post and what you are saying in your post are not incompatible.

phil said...

Cannoneer,

Americans interested in military affairs for professional reasons are very resistant to the idea of considering political activism within the context of thinking about forms of war because they can't openly participate in it or even describe it without risk of offending the powerful and suffering retribution.

Traditional apolitical professionalism has worked well for us, so far.


I agree. By "people interested in military affairs" I am talking about a broader group than those in the military. I am not advocating that the military engage in political activism, nor would I ever advocate such a thing. In fact one of the main arguments I have used in advocating for citizen-directed information ops is that it is not appropriate for the government of a free society to engage in certain kinds of "idea advocacy". Therefore it should be citizens to who mobilize to wage that aspect of the war outside of gov't. What I am trying to say is that we need to expand our thinking to include citizen political activism as a component of war alongside, diplomacy, financial, law enforcement, intelligence, military, etc. And we need to adapt our thinking so that we can recognize when an adversary is using political activism as a form of war against us. For example, we are already starting to see radical muslim groups using non-violent activism rather than terrorism as a means to accomplish their goals and I think this will become the primary means by which radical muslims in the future will operate within the west. Countering this will require citizens to engage in appropriate non-violent, social-political activism rather than gov't-directed action. But doing this will require a change in our thinking, because, as I said in the post, this is more than normal politics, but not quite what we usually think of as war.

Dan tdaxp said...

Phil,

Respectfully, I disagree.

The implication of the term "generation" you cite, emergence is a relic of the history of the xGW framework.

Ignoring the present body of xGW research and insisting on a literal definition of "generation" ("independent of what it is applied to, presents information as a sequence of emergence of generations") is just as sensible as ignoring all of theology by demanding a literal interpretation of holy writ. It is fundamentalism in the place of theory, pedantism in the place of thought.

Curtis Gale Weeks said...

Phil,

The usefulness of the generational model is primarily in showing the sequence of emergence of different forms of war.

My primary quibble involves the use of "primarily" above, and also the term "sequence" which has a time-based connotation.

First, the generational model has much more usefulness than merely mapping out a timing-sequence. For instance, if we think of generation as a type of cause-effect relationshipping between the constituent parts of the model, then the model may be thought of as a way of restating how one generation "gives birth" to the next or motivates people to develop the next generation. This relationship is also very important, more important than the fact that a time-sequencing might seem to be implied.

And "sequencing" implies clean breaks between the generations; whereas, lots of holdover occurs between one generation and the next. This gets to the distinction between a clock-based concept of time, in which time can be neatly divided into separate units, and considering time as duration. (Hah, I'm channeling Bergson.) This implication of clean breaks also devalues the relationships between each generation.

The clean-break sequencing you are attacking is a kind of straw man, actually, although it's a popular straw man for those arguing that the xGW is limited. (The model may be limited, but not for the reasons you give.) For instance, your idea that a modern group has the option of using 2GW, 3GW, and 4GW in a 5GW world is a non sequitur simply because the assertion is built to controvert the idea that xGW belongs only at Time-A, followed in sequence by x+1GW which belongs only at Time-B, etc., with neat periods defined by whichever generation of warfare is being used. Whereas, we could just as easily say that 4GW helps to cause the generation of (development of) 5GW but does not bear that same exact relationship to 2GW; and, 2GW does not bear the same generation-al relationship to 5GW that it bears to 3GW. They can all exist at the same time, however.

phil said...

Dan- "fundamentalism" "pedantism" - oh, please.

Curtis,
Thank you for your thoughtful comment.

I'm not "attacking" the generation model. This is not a pro-generation vs. anti-generation discussion. What I'm saying is "Okay we have the generation model, now how else can we categorize the different aspects of warfare, how else can we think about warfare?" In order to answer that question we have to identify the characteristics of the generation model, what is its organizing principle, what information does it give us, what information does it highlight over other information and so on. We have to have some awareness of what the model does and does not do so we can apply it in an appropriate way to take advantage of its characteristics. No single model can capture the entire complexity of a subject, especially something like warfare. And so we need to be open-minded and flexible enough to be able to switch from one model to another as needed. When the generation model is useful I will use it, if another model is better for my purposes then I will use that model. That is not an "attack" on or rejection of the generation model.

My primary quibble involves the use of "primarily"...

I chose "primarily" intentionally because it implies that this is not the only way the model is useful, and so I agree with you that the generational model has much more usefulness than merely mapping out a timing-sequence. However the reason I identified the sequence of emergence of different forms of war as its primary usefulness (but not the only usefulness) is because that is how the model itself is structured. Models are created for a purpose. If I ask someone with 3 children to list them in birth order, it might be 1st Jake, 2nd Bob, 3rd Henry. If I asked for a list in order of height from tallest to shortest then it might be 1st Henry, 2nd Jake, 3rd Bob. The primary usefulness of the first list is to tell you their birth order and of the second their order in height from tallest to shortest, because that's what they were organized to tell you. Now you can certainly use each list for other purposes while at the same time acknowledging what they were originally designed to do.

And "sequencing" implies clean breaks between the generations...
The clean-break sequencing you are attacking is a kind of straw man...

Not necessarily. It depends what you are sequencing. If I provide a "sequence of emergence" of my family as 1st grandfather, 2nd father, 3rd me. There are no clean breaks between generations, both my grandfather and father continued to live after the emergence of the succeeding generation. So "sequencing" does not necessarily imply clean breaks between generations, therefore there is no straw man. And again, I'm not "attacking" the generation model. I'm trying to identify how it structures information.

your idea that a modern group has the option of using 2GW, 3GW, and 4GW in a 5GW world is a non sequitur ...

They can all exist at the same time, however.

Well, that's what I'm saying. The reason a modern group can use the different forms of war is that "they can all exist at the same time."

Let me say this as clearly as I can: I'm not anti-generation model, against the generation model, nor am I attacking the generation model. I'm trying to understand the nature of the model in order to distinguish it from other existing models or models that have yet to be invented. All models have their limitations, no model universally useful or applicable. Far from being "fundamentalist" what I'm trying to do is ensure that I don't get locked into a particular model, where all my thinking is trapped within that model and never considering that there are other ways to look at things. I enjoy trying to look at things from different perspectives. When I've been looking at things in a certain way for a while, I feel a desire to seek out another way to look at things. A few years ago when I first came across the generation model, it was new to me and offered a way of seeing and thinking about warfare that was different. And I enjoyed thinking about it and using it to look at warfare. But now I'm interested in finding another way to look at warfare. And that is what I am going to continue doing.

Dan tdaxp said...

"fundamentalism" "pedantism" - oh, please.

Saying "oh, please" is a form of logical argument? Or would merely saying "literalism" twice have been more helpful?

Curtis Gale Weeks said...

Phil,

"Attacking" may have been the wrong word; but a "failure to see" any great utility for xGW beyond the sequencing aspect -- which you have called primary -- would promote a de-legitimization of the theory; or, waters it down.

"Okay we have the generation model, now how else can we categorize the different aspects of warfare, how else can we think about warfare?"

I think that keeping eyes open, in order to better see what is happening, is a very good idea. Believe it or not, those of use at D5GW have a very active search process occurring vis-a-vis xGW: The matter is not settled even as much as you have settled it. In fact, our tendency is to attempt to synthesize whatever other insights occur with xGW, which has on the whole broadened the xGW theory far beyond what Lind and some of his closest followers have done and continue to do with the theory.

Thinking outside the box is a good idea, but I'm not sure the baby, who is still quite young, needs to be thrown out with the bathwater. To mix metaphors.

No single model can capture the entire complexity of a subject, especially something like warfare.

Models may be malleable. If you begin with a settled model as if it is a symbol of something rather than a sign of things, and the reality is too broad for it, iconoclasm may be used to break the symbol. If you view the model as a sign (that you are on the right track, if nothing else), you can expand the model. A fundamentalist p.o.v. which narrows down the xGW model to the mere fact that, well, generations imply linear progression and that's all that's there in xGW, or the primary thing, then of course that orthodoxy would need to be crashed.

I chose "primarily" intentionally because it implies that this is not the only way the model is useful,

Similarly, one might take a word: symbol or sign? A literalist interpretation of the use of "primarily" would necessarily include the implication that other uses for xGW exist; else, the word would not need to be used! But the rigid hierarchy also implied by the word, as well as the fact that no other uses for xGW figure prominently in the context (your post), would seem to be a sign that, indeed, you've already broken the symbol of xGW, rendering the "other uses" moot.

There are no clean breaks between generations [within a family]

Yes, there are. Umbilical cords are cut, and we end up with distinct individuals. What is the umbilical cord between the generations of war within xGW? [a spur of the moment question, actually]

The reason a modern group can use the different forms of war is that "they can all exist at the same time."

In fact, from the very beginning (see this linked comment I left on Coming Anarchy), I have postulated that 5GW differs from the other generational fighting methods in the way 5GW fighters utilize 4GW, 3GW, and 2GW forces -- whatever works for a given operation -- which I thought would still be present, available for manipulation.

phil said...

but a "failure to see" any great utility for xGW beyond the sequencing aspect -- which you have called primary -- would promote a de-legitimization of the theory

That's very revealing. And it explains a lot. So the perception has been that the GW model needed to be defended against delegitimization. That if it turned out that my interpretation was accurate then that invalidated the model. This explains all that "fundamentalist-pedantic" thinking nonsense. If one has become heavily invested in and identified with a particular theory and then that theory is threatened with delegitimization, a common response is to strike out and try to discredit the source of the threat in order to defend the theory. The GW model is NOT threatened with delegitimization. It is a legitimate approach to thinking about war regardless of whether my interpretation is right or wrong. Nor was it my intention to attempt to invalidate that approach. I never said that there was no great utility beyond the sequencing aspect. The model is structured to organize information in a certain way and to highlight some information over other information, as all models do. This doesn't mean that it isn't very useful for other purposes or that it doesn't offer a rich territory to explore. But if you don't want to operate within the structure of this model then there are other options available.

Believe it or not, those of use at D5GW have a very active search process occurring vis-a-vis xGW: The matter is not settled even as much as you have settled it. In fact, our tendency is to attempt to synthesize whatever other insights occur with xGW

Yes, I know. I very much enjoy the thinking at D5GW and will continue to do so. If exploring the possibilities of that model is what you want to do, that's fine. I never said that you shouldn't do that. But for what I want to explore, I find the structure of this model doesn't always serve my purposes. That doesn't invalidate what anyone else is doing.

as well as the fact that no other uses for xGW figure prominently in the context (your post)

That wasn't the purpose of my post. It wasn't titled "All the Uses for xGW".

I have postulated that 5GW differs from the other generational fighting methods in the way 5GW fighters utilize 4GW, 3GW, and 2GW forces -- whatever works for a given operation -- which I thought would still be present, available for manipulation.

That's an interesting idea. And it's why I enjoy reading D5GW. It's possible that what is called 5GW could actually be 1GW of another generation cycle. Who knows?

There is still some disagreement between us on a few things, but I think that for now we should just agree to disagree. However I do believe that there is more agreement here than you realize. I'm moving in a few weeks and so the real world is keeping me busy and away from the computer more than in the past, so I may not be able to keep up with this in the way that it deserves.

Curtis Gale Weeks said...

Phil,

I'll be watching to see how you approach the subject of politics; quite possibly, your approach will help add to the discussion/conceptualization of xGW on our end!

Delegitimization could translate to cross-purposes. Of course we (Dan and I and others; I'm sorta taking the liberty of speaking for him now) are invested in the xGW model. But there's no reason a separate search and other models must be made irrevocably separate from a consideration of xGW. That was my general point, even if I took a slightly hostile approach when explaining it