For the Record: Draft Manual on 4GW War



Fourth Generation War

Imperial and Royal Austro-Hungarian Marine Corps


In the early 1990s, the U.S. Marine Corps issued a set of excellent doctrinal manuals, beginning with the FMFM 1, Warfighting. Warfighting and its companion manuals, Campaigning, Tactics and Command & Control, laid out Third Generation (maneuver) warfare clearly and concisely.

However, in the meantime war has moved on. The United States Armed Forces are currently engaged in two Fourth Generation wars, in Afghanistan and Iraq. More such conflicts seem likely. At the same time, the intellectual renaissance in the U.S. Marine Corps that created the earlier FMFMs seems to have come to an end, at least on the official level.

The Fourth Generation Seminar therefore decided a couple years ago to fill the doctrinal gap by writing its own “FMFM” on Fourth Generation war, aimed at a Marine Corps audience. Obviously, such a manual would be an unofficial effort; using an old literary device, we are offering it as a manual of the Imperial & Royal Austro-Hungarian Marine Corps.

Please note that the FMFM is offered here in draft form. We (the seminar) welcome suggestions for changes and improvements (see below). When the seminar reconvenes in the fall of 2005, we will consider and evaluate all suggestions as we work toward a final version of the manual.

The seminar itself is composed of officers from the U.S. Marine Corps, Royal Marines, the U.S. Army and the Army and Air National Guard. It is led by Mr. William S. Lind, who created the framework of the Four Generations of Modern War in the 1980s. The seminar has no official sponsorship and receives no financial support or compensation. Its only purpose is to further our understanding of Fourth Generation war in ways that are useful to those Americans who have to fight such wars, including Marines.


“Just as Alexander’s exploits only reached the Middle Ages as a dim, fantastic tale, so in the future people will probably look back upon the twentieth century as a period of mighty empires, vast armies and incredible fighting machines that have crumbled into dust …. ” 

Martin van Creveld, The Transformation of War

 War is Changing

War always changes. Our enemies learn and adapt, and we must do the same or lose. But today, war is changing faster and on a larger scale than at any time in the last 350 years. Not only are we, as Marines, facing rapid change in how war is fought, we are facing radical changes in who fights and what they are fighting for.

All over the world, state militaries, including our own, find themselves fighting non‑state opponents. This kind of war, which we call Fourth Generation war, is a very difficult challenge. Almost always, state militaries have vast superiority over their non‑state opponents in most of what we call "combat power:" technology, weapons, techniques, training, etc. Despite these superiorities, more often than not, state militaries end up losing.

America's greatest military theorist, Air Force Colonel John Boyd, used to say:

“When I was a young officer, I was taught that if you have air superiority, land superiority and sea superiority, you win. Well, in Vietnam we had air superiority, land superiority and sea superiority, but we lost. So I realized there is something more to it.”

This FMFM is about that “something more.” In order to fight Fourth Generation war and win, Marines need to understand what that "something more" is. That in turn requires an intellectual framework – a construct that helps us make sense of facts and events, both current and historical.

The intellectual framework put forward in this FMFM is called “The Four Generations of Modern War.”[1] It was first laid out in an article in the Marine Corps Gazette in October, 1989.[2] In this framework, modern war began with the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 which ended the Thirty Years War. Why? Because with that treaty, the state – which was itself relatively new[3] – established a monopoly on war.

After 1648, first in Europe and then worldwide, war became something waged by states against other states, using state armies and navies (and later air forces). To us, the assumption that war is something waged by states is so automatic that we have difficulty thinking of war in any other way. We sometimes (misleadingly) call war against non‑state opponents “Operations Other Than War” (OOTW) or “Stability and Support Operations” (SASO).

In fact, before the Peace of Westphalia, many different entities waged wars. Families waged wars, as did clans and tribes. Ethnic groups and races waged war. Religions and cultures waged war. So did business enterprises and gangs. These wars were often many‑sided, not two‑sided, and alliances shifted constantly.

Not only did many different entities wage war, they used many different means. Few possessed anything we would recognize as a formal army, navy or Marine Corps (Marines were often present, as the fighting men on galleys). Often, when war came, whoever was fighting would hire mercenaries, both on land and at sea. In other cases, such as tribal war, the “army” was any male old enough, but not too old, to carry a weapon. In addition to campaigns and battles, war was waged by bribery, assassination, treachery, betrayal, even dynastic marriage. The lines between “civilian” and “military,” and between crime and war, were hazy or non‑existent. Many societies knew little internal order or peace; bands of men with weapons, when not hired out for wars, simply took whatever they wanted from anyone too weak to resist them.

Here, the past is prologue. Much of what Marines now face in Fourth Generation wars is simply war as it was fought before the rise of the state and the Peace of Westphalia. Once again, clans, tribes, ethnic groups, cultures, religions and gangs are fighting wars, in more and more parts of the world. They fight using many different means, not just engagements and battles. Once again, conflicts are often many‑sided, not just two‑sided. Marines who find themselves caught up in such conflicts quickly discover they are difficult to understand and harder still to prevail in.

The Root of the Problem

At the heart of this phenomenon, Fourth Generation war,[4] is not a military but a political, social and moral revolution: a crisis of legitimacy of the state. All over the world, citizens of states are transferring their primary allegiance away from the state to other things: to tribes, ethnic groups, religions, gangs, ideologies and so on. Many people who will no longer fight for their state will fight for their new primary loyalty. In America’s two wars with Iraq, the Iraqi state armed forces showed little fight, but Iraqi insurgents whose loyalties are to non‑state elements are now waging a hard‑fought and effective guerilla war.

The fact that the root of Fourth Generation war is a political, social and moral phenomenon, the decline of the state, means that there can be no purely military solution to Fourth Generation threats. Military force is incapable, by itself, of restoring legitimacy to a state. This is especially the case when the military force is foreign; usually, its mere presence will further undermine the legitimacy of the state it is attempting to support. At the same time, Marines will be tasked with fighting Fourth Generation wars. This is not just a problem, it is a dilemma– one of several dilemmas Marines will face in the Fourth Generation.

With this dilemma constantly in view, FMFM 1‑A lays out how to fight Fourth Generation war 

Chapter I: Understanding Fourth Generation War

“The first, the supreme, the most far-reaching act of judgment that the statesman and commander have to make is to establish … the kind of war on which they are embarking; neither mistaking it for, nor trying to turn it into something that is alien to its nature.”

Carl von Clausewitz, On War

Before you can fight Fourth Generation war successfully, you have to understand it. Because it is something new (at least in our time), no one understands it completely. It is still evolving, which means our understanding must continue to evolve as well. This chapter lays out our best current understanding of the Fourth Generation of Modern War.

Three Levels of War

The three classical levels of war – strategic, operational and tactical – still exist in Fourth Generation war. But all three are affected and to some extent changed by the Fourth Generation. One important change is that while in the first three generations, strategy was the province of generals, the Fourth Generation gives us the “strategic corporal.” Especially when video cameras are rolling, a single enlisted Marine may take an action that has strategic effect.

An example comes from the first phase of Operation Iraqi Freedom. U.S. Marines had occupied a Shiite town in southern Iraq. A Marine corporal was leading a patrol through the town when it encountered a funeral procession coming the other way. The corporal ordered his men to stand aside and take their helmets off as a sign of respect. Word of that action quickly spread around town, and it helped the Marines’ effort to be welcomed as liberators. That in turn had a strategic impact, because American strategy required keeping Shiite southern Iraq, through which American supply lines had to pass, quiet.

Another change is that all three levels may be local. A Marine unit may have a “beat,” much as police do – an area where they are responsible for maintaining order and perhaps delivering other vital services as well. The unit must harmonize its local, tactical actions with higher strategic and operational goals, both of which must be pursued consistently on the local level. (When a unit is assigned a “beat,” it is important that the beat’s boundaries reflect real local boundaries, such as those between tribes and clans, and not be arbitrary lines drawn on a map at some higher headquarters.)

These changes point to another of the dilemmas that typify Fourth Generation war: what succeeds on the tactical level can easily be counter‑productive at the operational and, especially, strategic levels. For example, by using their overwhelming firepower at the tactical level, Marines may in some cases intimidate the local population into fearing them and leaving them alone. But fear and hate are closely related, and if the local population ends up hating us, that works toward our strategic defeat. That is why in Northern Ireland, British troops are not allowed to return fire unless they are actually taking casualties. The Israeli military historian Martin van Creveld argues that one reason the British have not lost in Northern Ireland is that they have taken more casualties than they have inflicted.

Fourth Generation war poses an especially difficult problem to operational art: put simply, it is difficult to operationalize. Often, Fourth Generation opponents’ strategic centers of gravity are intangible. They may be things like proving their manhood to their comrades and local women, obeying the commandments of their religion or demonstrating their tribe’s bravery to other tribes. Because operational art is the art of focusing tactical actions on enemy strategic centers of gravity, operational art becomes difficult or even impossible in such situations. This was the essence of the Soviet failure in Afghanistan.

The Soviet Army, which focused on operational art, could not operationalize a conflict where the enemy's strategic center of gravity was God. The Soviets were reduced to fighting at the tactical level only, where their army was not very capable, despite its vast technological superiority over the Afghan Mujaheddin.

Fourth Generation war sometimes cuts across all three classical levels of war. An example comes from Colonel John Boyd' s definition of grand strategy, the highest level of war. He defined grand strategy as the art of connecting yourself to as many other independent power centers as possible while isolating your enemies from as many other power centers as possible.

A Fourth Generation conflict will usually have many different independent power centers not only at the grand strategic level but down all the way to the tactical level. The game of connection and isolation will be central to tactics and operational art as well as to strategy and grand strategy. It will be important to ensure that what you are doing at the tactical level does not alienate independent power centers you need to connect with at the operational or strategic levels. Similarly, you will need to be careful not to isolate yourself today from independent power centers you will need to connect to tomorrow.

Again, while the classical three levels of war carry over into the Fourth Generation, they change. We do not yet know all the ways in which they will change when Marines face Fourth Generation opponents. As Marines’ experience in Fourth Generation conflicts grows, so must our understanding. It is vital that we remain open to new lessons and not attempt to fit new ways of war into outdated notions.

Three New Levels of War

While the classical three levels of war carry over into the Fourth Generation, they are joined there by three new levels which may be more important. Colonel Boyd identified these three new levels as the physical, the mental and the moral. Further, he argued that the physical level – killing people and breaking things – is the least powerful, the moral level is the most powerful and the mental level lies between the other two. Colonel Boyd argued that this is especially true in guerilla warfare, which is more closely related to Fourth Generation war than is formal warfare between state militaries. The history of guerilla warfare, from the Spanish guerilla war against Napoleon through Israel’s experience in southern Lebanon, supports Colonel Boyd’s observation.

This leads to the central dilemma of Fourth Generation war: what works for you on the physical (and sometimes mental) level often works against you at the moral level. It is therefore very easy in a Fourth Generation conflict to win all the tactical engagements yet lose the war. To the degree you win at the physical level by pouring on firepower that causes casualties and property damage to the local population, every physical victory may move you closer to moral defeat. And the moral level is decisive.

Some examples from the American experience in Iraq help illustrate the contradiction between the physical and moral levels:

* The U.S. Army conducted many raids on civilian homes in areas it occupied. In these raids, the troops physically dominated the civilians. Mentally, they terrified them. But at the moral level, breaking into private homes in the middle of the night, terrifying women and children and sometimes treating detainees in ways that publicly humiliated them (like stepping on their heads) worked powerfully against the Americans. An enraged population responded by providing the Iraqi resistance with more support at every level of war, physical, mental and moral.

* At Baghdad’s Abu Ghraib prison, MPs and interrogators dominated prisoners physically and mentally – as too many photographs attest. But when that domination was publicly exposed, the United States suffered an enormous defeat at the moral level. Some American commanders recognized the power of the moral level when they referred to the soldiers responsible for the abuse as, “the jerks who lost us the war.”

* In Iraq and elsewhere, American troops (other than Special Forces) quickly establish base camps that mirror American conditions: air conditioning, good medical care, plenty of food and pure water, etc. The local people are not allowed into the bases except in service roles. Physically, the American superiority over the lives the locals lead is overwhelming. Mentally, it projects the power and success of American society. But morally, the constant message of “we're better than you” works against the Americans. Traditional cultures tend to put high values on pride and honor, and when foreigners seem to sneer at local ways, the locals may respond by defending their honor in a traditional manner – ­by fighting. In response to the American presence, Fourth Generation war spreads rather than contracts.

The practice of a successful Fourth Generation entity, al Qaeda, offers an interesting contrast. Osama bin Laden, who comes from a wealthy family, lives in a cave. In part, it is for security. But it also reflects a keen understanding of the power of the moral level of war. By sharing the hardships and dangers of his followers, Osama bin Laden draws a sharp contrast at the moral level with the leaders of local states, and also with senior officers in most state armies.

The contradiction between the physical and moral levels of war in Fourth Generation conflicts is similar to the contradiction between the tactical and strategic levels, but the two are not identical. The physical, mental and moral levels all play at each of the other levels – tactical, operational and strategic. Any disharmony among levels creates openings which Fourth Generation opponents will be quick to exploit.

Of course, we can also exploit our opponents’ disharmonies. For example, let us say that one of our opponents is a religious grouping. In a town where we have a presence, a local feud results in the killing of a clergyman by members of the same grouping. In itself, this is a minor tactical event. But if we use our own information warfare to focus the public’s attention on it, pointing out how the tenets of the religion are not being observed by those who claim to speak for it, we might create a “moral bomb.” A physical action would play on the moral level, just as a tactical action would play on a strategic level. Here we see how the classical and new levels of war intersect.


Perhaps the best way to search out and identify potential disharmonies among levels is to think of two intersecting games of three‑dimensional chess. A single game of three-dimensional chess is challenging enough, in terms of the possible moves it offers. Now, imagine a single three-level game, representing the three classical levels of war, with another three-level game slashing through it at an angle. The second game represents Boyd’s levels of war, the physical, the mental and the moral. The complexity and the demands it makes on decision-makers are daunting. But it is in just such a complex atmosphere that practitioners of Fourth Generation war must try to identify and avoid disharmonies among levels.

Another way to think of intersection among levels is to picture Fourth Generation war not as a matrix but as a shifting “blob.” The blob may shift, so slowly as to be imperceptible or with stunning speed, into as many different shapes as can be imagined. Each shift represents changes on both the strategic/operational/tactical and moral/mental/physical axes. Again, the variety of shapes illustrates the complexities of relationships among levels, along with potential disharmonies that can be exploited.

However you choose to picture intersections among the classical and new levels of war in your own mind, the basic point remains the same: all actions, even the smallest, must be considered with great care and from a variety of perspectives lest they have unintended consequences on other (and possibly higher) levels. Fourth Generation war demands not only the strategic corporal, but the moral corporal as well, enlisted Marines who think about every action they take in terms of its moral effects.

One short story from the war in Iraq makes the point about intersections. In the town of Haditha, U.S. Marine Captain Matt Danner had established a strong, positive working relationship with the local population. According to a story in The San Francisco Chronicle,[5]

“A man comes in to say a Marine threw a water bottle from a humvee in a convoy. It hit his windshield and destroyed it.”

“ ‘This is exactly the kind of thing we’re trying to avoid,’ Danner fumes. ‘I just can’t understand this. And it takes so long to get resolution for this guy. What am I going to do, send him to Mosul without a windshield?’ ”

“ ‘I gave him 200 bucks. I ought to strap that Marine onto the car and let him be a wind break.’ ”

We Never Said This Would be Easy

At this point, Marines may find themselves saying, “My head hurts.” Remember, because war draws forth the ultimate in human powers, it is also the most complex of human activities. War is not a football game, nor is it merely an expanded version of a fistfight on the school playground. Because Fourth Generation war involves not only many different players, but many different kinds of players, fighting for many different kinds of goals (from money through political power to martyrdom) it is more complex than war between state militaries. Attempts to simplify it that do so by ignoring complex elements merely set us up for failure.

At the same time, illustrations can be helpful. Let us look at one here.

"Operation David”

For General Braxton Butler’s 13th Armored Division, the invasion of Inshallahland had been a cakewalk. Inshallahland’s small air force had been destroyed on the ground in the first few hours. Apaches had knocked out most of the Inshallan tanks before his M‑1s even saw them. Virtually all had been abandoned before they were hit. It seemed the Inshallan army just didn’t have much fight in it.

The 13th Armored Division swept into Inshallahland’s capital in less then a week, suffering only a handful of casualties in the process. The local government skipped the country, taking the treasury with them, and an American pro‑consul now governed in their place. American‑imposed secular democracy and capitalism would soon give the people a better life, or so General Butler thought.

But that is not quite how it turned out. Within days of the decisive American victory, graffiti began showing up, posting the message, “Now the real war starts.” It seemed those Inshallan soldiers who skedaddled so fast had taken their light weapons with them. Some analysts said that was the Inshallan strategy from the outset, although General Butler didn’t pay much attention to eggheads like that. His job was just to put steel on target.

So as the insurgency spread, that is what General Butler did. He called it “Operation Goliath.” He knew no enemy on earth could stand up to American firepower. All that was necessary was killing anyone who resisted and scaring everyone else into cooperating with the Americans. Methodically, in town after town in the 13th Armored Division’s sector, his troops launched cordon-and-search operations. He kept his casualties down by prepping each town thoroughly, using air and artillery to take out any likely targets. Then, his tanks and Bradleys swept through. He was killing a lot of bad guys, he was certain; that much firepower had to do something. It made a mess of the towns, but fixing them was someone else’s problem. Anyway, he was rotating home next week. In the meantime, Operation Goliath would clean out the town of Akaba.

Mohammed lived in Akaba. He was a poor man, like almost everyone in Akaba. But his tea shop across from the mosque allowed him to feed his family. He was even able to save some money so that some day he could go on the Hajj.

When the troops of the 13th Armored Division first came through Akaba, months before, Mohammed had watched. There wasn’t any fighting, thanks be to Allah, but the American tanks had ripped up some roads, crushed sewers and water pipes and even knocked down a few buildings. An American officer had promised they would pay for the damage, but they never did. Still, life went on pretty much as before. No one collected taxes now, which was good. Some foreigners, not Americans Mohammed thought, had set up a clinic; they were welcome. The electricity was on more often, which was also good. Anyway, the Americans would leave soon, or so they said.

Of course, the mujaheddin were now active in Akaba, as they were everywhere. Mostly, they set bombs by the sides of roads, targeting American supply convoys. He had watched an American vehicle burn after it was hit. Mohammed felt sorry for the American soldiers in the burning truck. They were someone’s sons, he thought. War was bad for everyone.

When the bombing started in the night, Mohammed did not understand what was happening. Huge explosions followed, one after another. Quickly, he got his family out of the rooms over the tea shop where they lived and into the mosque across the street. He did not know who was doing the bombing, but perhaps they would not bomb a mosque.

At daybreak, the bombing stopped and American tanks came down his street. This time, they did not just pass through. American soldiers were kicking in the doors of every building and searching inside. The Americans were attacking the mujaheddin. He knew some of the mujaheddin. They were poor men, like himself. They had few weapons. The Americans had on armor and helmets. Their tanks were enormous, and from the door of the mosque he could see their helicopters overhead, shooting anyone on the streets. Butchers! Murderers! How could human beings do this?

An American tank stopped near his tea shop. Suddenly, two mujaheddin, just boys, ran out from the ally by his shop. They had an RPG. Before they could fire, the Americans’ machine guns cut them down. By God, what an awful sight! Then the tank swiveled its enormous gun. It fired right through his shop into the alley. His business and his home were destroyed in an instant. “God curse them! God curse them!” Mohammed wailed. In less than a minute, he had lost his home and his livelihood.

American soldiers came into the mosque. They kept their boots on, defiling the holy place. They were screaming in a language Mohammed did not understand. His wife and children were terrified of the soldiers. In their helmets and armor and sunglasses, they looked like jinn, not men. Quickly, Mohammed pulled his family into a corner and stood in front of them to protect them. He was a small man and had no weapon, but his honor demanded he defend his family. He could do nothing else.

Three American soldiers came up to him, still screaming. He did not know what they wanted. Suddenly, two of them grabbed him and threw him on the ground. One put his boot on Mohammed’s head to hold him. Enraged by the terrible insult, the humiliation in front of his own family, Mohammed struggled. Another soldier kicked him in the groin as he lay on the ground. Retching with pain, he watched as the Americans ran their hands over his wife and daughter. They did something with his hands too. He did not know what. Then they let him go and moved on.

Back in the 13th Armored Division’s headquarters, General Butler’s replacement had arrived. Major General Montgomery Forrest was invited by General Butler to join the brief on the progress of Operation Goliath. “Yesterday was another major success,” General Butler told his replacement. “We pacified the town of Akaba, killing at least 300 muj and capturing 17. We’ve got a pretty good template for how to handle these places, and I don’t think you'll have any problem picking up where I’ve left off.”

That same day, Mohammed and his family were approached by Rashid. Mohammed knew Rashid was a mujaheddin. “We are sorry for what the American devils did to you yesterday,” Rashid said. “My cousin said you and your family are welcome to live in his home. Here are 5000 dinars to help you. We will also help rebuild your home and shop when the Americans have been driven out, God willing.”

“Praise be to God for your generosity,” Mohammed replied. “I want to fight the Americans too. But I am not a soldier. I saw how the American tank killed those two boys by my shop. The dogs even ran the tank over their bodies. You must have suffered many dead yesterday.”

“Actually, praise be to God for his protection, we only had eleven men killed. The two you saw martyred were new to us. We told them to run away, to be safe until we could train them. But they took a weapon and attacked anyway. Now they are with God. But if you will join us, Mohammed, we will not throw your life away. We will train you well, so that when you fight the Americans you will kill many of them before you are made a martyr yourself. And we take care of our martyrs’ families, so you will not need to worry about them. Thanks to the faithful, we have plenty of money, and weapons too.”

“Do you know what the American dogs did?” Mohammed said. “They put their boots on my head, in front of my family. By God, I will fight them. I will be a suicide bomber myself.”

Mohammed’s son, who had just turned 13, had been listening to the conversation. “Father, I want to avenge our family’s honor, too. I want to be a suicide bomber also. Once I took candy from the Americans. Now I hate them more than I fear death.”

“My son, if you had said this to me the day before yesterday, I would have beaten you. Now I give you my blessing. Go with Rashid and do whatever he tells you. Perhaps God will allow us to be martyrs together.”

A week later, General Butler had departed for his important new job at TRADOC, where he would oversee the development of counterinsurgency doctrine. The division staff had worked hard on their first brief for the new CG. With 714 PowerPoint slides, they would show him how Operation Goliath would pacify its next target, the town of Hattin.

The general was seated in the first row, coffee cup in hand. But before the briefer could begin, a lieutenant colonel in the seventh row of horse‑holders stood up. “General Forrest, before this brief starts, I have something I’d like to say.”

Every head swiveled. Who was this guy interrupting the brief?

“Colonel, I apologize, but I’m so new here I’m afraid I have to ask who you are,” General Forrest replied.

“I’m Lt. Col. Ed Burke, sir, commander of 3rd Battalion, 13th Armored Division. Hattin is in my sector. Sir, I apologize for interrupting the briefing, but I’ve got something I have to get off my chest.”

“Don’t worry about the damn briefing,” General Forrest replied. “Personally, I hate PowerPoint.” The staff’s sphincters tightened in unison. “What have you got to say?”

“Sir, I respectfully request that Operation Goliath not be carried out in Hattin.”

“Why not?”

Because it will make the situation there worse, sir, not better. I’m not saying we don’t have problems in Hattin. We do. But while we don’t have a 100% solution to the insurgency there, we have maybe a 51% solution. Operation Goliath represents the opposite of everything we've been doing. In my personal opinion, if operation Goliath hits Hattin, it will make our job there impossible. It will work for the resistance, not against it.”

“This guy's toast” whispered one colonel on the staff to another.

“Well, I tend to think 51% solutions may be the best we can do against insurgents,” said General Forrest. “Why don't you tell us what you’re doing? Come on up front here and take over. The staff can just give me the briefing text and I’ll read it over in my spare time.”

“Thank you, sir,” said Lt. Col. Burke. “We call what we’re doing in Hattin ‘Operation David.’ Sir, may I begin by asking the division staff how many casualties we have suffered in Akaba?”

The Division G‑3 glared at Burke, but General Forrest looked like he expected an answer. “We have suffered five KIA since yesterday morning, with 23 wounded, 18 of which had to be evacuated. Resistance is continuing for the moment, so I cannot say this will be the final casualty total. I expect all resistance will be crushed sometime tomorrow.”

“Don’t count on that,” said General Forrest. “Lt. Col Burke, please continue.”

“In Hattin, since my battalion took over four months ago, I have had two KIA and five wounded, all in two incidents. I have had only three successful attacks on American convoys in my whole sector, all by IEDs. As you know, General, metrics are pretty worthless in this kind of war. But as best we can tell, only 1% of the population in my sector is actively hostile. We believe we have caught everyone responsible for planting the IEDs that hit our convoys. We have captured over 1,000 insurgents. Most important, we have not killed a single Inshallan civilian.”

“Excuse me, Lt. Col. Burke,” interrupted the G‑3. “My records show you forwarded only 237 captured insurgents, not 1,000.”

“That is correct, sir,” replied Lt. Col. Burke. “All locals whom we capture we release. But first, we keep them with us for a while to show them what we are doing. They see with their own eyes that we are treating people with respect and trying to help. They also get to know my soldiers, whom I have ordered to treat detainees as guests of the battalion. Only if we capture someone a second time or if they are not from Hattin do we forward them to division as prisoners.”

“Is this a ‘hearts and minds’ strategy, Colonel?” asked General Forrest.

“Not exactly, sir. We don’t expect the locals to love us. We’re foreign invaders and infidels to them. Our goal is to keep them from hating us so much that they fight us. I think we've done that pretty well, sir.”

“Colonel, why don’t you start from the beginning and tell us the whole story of Operation David,” said General Forrest­.

“Yes, sir. Well, when we knew where our sector was going to be I gathered all my officers and senior NCOs, and some junior NCOs and troops as well, and told them the result I wanted. The result was what I just told you, sir. I wanted to operate so that the locals would not hate us enough to fight us. Then I asked how we could do that. They talked, and I listened. I had an advantage in that we have a company of National Guardsmen attached. A lot of them are cops. I think cops understand this kind of situation better than a lot of soldiers do.”

“The cops made one very important point right at the beginning. They said the key to keeping the peace is to de‑escalate situations rather than escalate them. Soldiers are taught to escalate. If something isn’t working, bring in more firepower. Cops don’t do that, because it enrages the community. So that was one piece of the puzzle.”

“Another came from our battalion chaplain. He opened the Bible and read the story of David and Goliath. Then he asked how many of us were rooting for Goliath? My light bulb went on at that point, and I said what we want is Operation David.”

“An NCO said that if we want to be David, we should just carry sling‑shots. Everybody laughed, but I saw his point. I said we won’t go in with M-1s and Bradleys. Just HMMWVs and trucks. A private said let’s ditch the helmets, armor and sunglasses. They just make us look like Robocop. I said, “He's right, so we'll do that too.” 

“Are you saying you aren’t using all your assets?” the G‑3 asked.

“That is correct, sir,” Lt. Col. Burke replied. “One of our first rules is proportionality. A disproportionate response, like using an M‑1 tank against a couple lightly‑armed mujaheddin, turns us into Goliath. It is a great way to make the locals hate us so much they will fight us. It also makes us look like cowards.”

“That sounds like you are taking unnecessary risks with American lives,” the G‑3 responded.

“Sir, how do we lose more American lives, by using our own light infantry against their light infantry, or by turning on massive firepower that serves as our enemies’ best recruiting tool? Sir, I have to wonder if you are missing the forest for the trees.”

“Personally, I am more interested in the forest,” said General Forrest. “Please continue, Lt. Col. Burke.”

“Yes, sir.”

“One of my National Guard officers said that in Bosnia, where he served, the Europeans and the locals all laughed at us for hunkering down in fortified camps and seeming scared all the time. It’s the old Force Protection crap. So I said, ‘Can it.’ No Fort Apaches. We’ll live in the towns. We will billet with the people, paying them well for the quarters we occupy. We’ll shop in the local markets, drink coffee in the local cafes. In Hattin, my headquarters is over a row of shops, right down town. We protect the shopkeepers, but they also protect us. They don’t want their shops blown up. I have troops living that way all over town. I let my captains, lieutenants and sergeants work their areas the way they see fit, blending in as much as possible.

“With that kind of dispersion, how do you control your men?” asked the pissed-off G-3.

“I don’t,” Lt.Col. Burke shot back. “I believe in command, not control. I give my subordinates mission orders. They know the result I want, and I leave it up to them how to get it. If they need help, they come see me and we talk. Otherwise, I trust them to get the result. If one of them can’t, I relieve him.”

“Tell me about your KIA,” General Forrest interjected.

“Yes, sir. It happened within the first couple weeks. A suicide bomber in a car hit one of my patrols. I lost two KIA and three wounded, all with limbs blown off. But 11 Inshallans were also killed and 32 wounded. I immediately ordered that we treat their wounded just like our own. We sent them on helos to American‑run hospitals, not the crummy local ones. We transported their families to the hospitals to see them, and when they were well enough we brought them to their homes. We also gave money to the families that had lost wage‑earners.”

Moslems bury their dead immediately, and I and my men went to all the funerals. Then I had memorial services for my two KIA and invited the townspeople. Many came, including three imams who offered prayers. That had a huge impact locally. I then asked the imams if they and their colleagues would give classes on Islam to me and my troops. That also had a huge impact, and it helped build my guys’ cultural intelligence.”

“Sir, my other two wounded happened like this. A couple kids with AK‑47s jumped one of my patrols. They couldn’t really shoot, it was just pray and spray. Despite two men down, my guys did not shoot the kids. My patrol leader charged them and they dropped their weapons and ran. When he caught them, he brought them back to the ambush site, pulled their pants down and spanked them. The crowd loved it, and the kids were humiliated in front of their buddies instead of being heroes. Both of my guys have since returned to duty and the kids’ parents have apologized to us. They were very grateful we did not shoot their sons.”

“How did you train for this?” General Forrest asked.

“Well, sir, as one example, when I took my battalion through the ‘local village’ training stateside before we deployed, I reversed roles. I had my guys play the villagers, and I had troops who didn’t speak their language sweep through on a typical cordon‑and‑search mission. I made sure the troops treated my villagers like we too often treat locals ‑ screaming at them in a language they did not understand, throwing them around, detaining them in painful positions, and so forth. The result was just what I wanted – a lot of fights. My guys got so angry they started throwing punches. Then in the debrief I asked them, ‘If we don’t want the locals to fight us, how should we treat them?’ The fact that they had been on the receiving end helped them see themselves in a whole new light.”

“I think I might want to do that with my other units,” General Forrest said. “Please continue.”

“Yes, sir.”

“From day one, our message to the people of Hattin was, ‘We're not here to take over. You are in charge. You tell us what to do that will help you.’ We helped them bring in NGOs to set up clinics and distribute food. We put our troops to work under the local Inshallan engineers and technicians to improve the infrastructure. I made my HQ a ‘go to’ point for the Inshallans when they needed parts or equipment. Over and over, we made the point that we are there to serve. On security, we let the mayor and the local police set policy. We only help when they ask us. They want order, which is what we want too, only they know a lot better than we do how to get it in their society.” 

“We understand that real psyops are not what we say but what we do, and God help us if the two are different. The people of Hattin now understand that we are not there to change the way they live, or to make them live by our rules. Hattin is a fundamentalist Islamic city, and some of their practices bother us. But this is their country, not ours. I've had signs put up in all our buildings, in Arabic and in English, that say, ‘When in Inshallahland, do as the Inshallans do.’ We go out of our way to make it clear that we do not see our way of life as superior to theirs. We are not somehow ‘better’ than they are. In cultures like this one, honor and pride are very important. If we seem to lord it over them, they have to fight us because their honor demands it.”

“Stop for one minute, Colonel,” interrupted the G‑3. “We have similar humanitarian assistance programs as part of Operation Goliath. After we have secured a town, we bring in NGOs too. Do you know what the insurgents do to them? They capture them, hold them for ransom and then cut their heads off! Are you telling me that does not happen in Hattin?”

“Well, that brings us to the next level,” replied Lt. Col. Burke. “Life is harder for insurgents in Hattin than in the towns where Operation Goliath has left its heavy footprint. It is easy for insurgents in your towns to gain the people’s support because Operation Goliath has made Americans hated, hated bad enough that lots of people want to see them killed. That is not true in Hattin. Why would people want to capture aid workers when they are just helping?”

“You are not answering my question,” barked the G‑3. “Have any of your aid workers been captured?”

“Yes. Unfortunately, there will always be some people that we refer to as ‘bad apples.’ Operation David has kept their number small, but they exist. We have to deal with them in a very different way. We have to capture or kill them.”

“That’s no different from what we do,” said the G‑3.

“Yes it is, because how we do it is different,” Burke replied. “We never do cordon‑and‑ search. We never kick down doors. We never terrorize civilians or call in heavy firepower. If we have to take someone out, our preferred option is to take out a contract on them. Locals do the dirty work, and we leave no American fingerprints.”

“If there is an insurgent cell that is too tough for locals to handle, we send in our Nighthunters, our equivalent to Delta Force. They are experts in low‑impact combat. They specialize in being invisible. Local citizens never see them or deal with them. That enables us to keep the locals from seeing the average American soldier as a threat. Our cops put the Nighthunter concept together. It is like a SWAT team. People don’t confuse SWAT with their local cop on the beat. Every time we’ve had an aid worker taken hostage, the Nighthunters have rescued them within 24 hours.”

“Lt. Col. Burke, I’m the PAO on the 13th Armored Division staff,” said a reservist. “How are you working the press problem in Operation David?”

“By playing one media operation off against others,” Lt. Col. Burke replied. “I thought from the beginning that we would get favorable media coverage of what we are doing in Hattin, and on the whole I’ve been right. Ninety percent of what we do is open to any reporter who wants to come along. That includes al Jazeera.”

“Just once, early on, al Jazeera did an unfair and inaccurate story on one of our operations. In response, instead of kicking them out of Hattin, I invited al Arabiya in. I knew they were competitors. I encouraged al Arabiya to do an investigative report on the operation al Jazeera had portrayed negatively, and I opened all our records up to them. Their report showed that al Jazeera had been wrong. Since then, al Jazeera has been very careful to get their facts right in Hattin. And that’s all I ask. If we do something wrong and they report it, that’s our fault, not theirs.”

“It sounds to me as if Operation David requires superb local intelligence,” General Forrest said. “How do you obtain that intelligence?”

“The same way cops do, by talking to the local people all the time,” Lt. Col. Burke answered. “Remember, we haven’t made ourselves hated. We buy from locals all the time. Good customers become friends, and friends pass information to other friends.”

“The real problem is the language barrier. We’ve worked on that a number of ways. Of course, we’ve hired as many locals as interpreters as we can. I have them give classes each day to all my troops, so they learn at least some phrases and common courtesies in the local language. Each of my men has a pack of flash cards with basic phrases in English and Arabic, the Arabic spelled phonetically and also in script. If he can’t say it right, he can point.”

“Again, our Guardsmen have been a tremendous help. They come from Cleveland, Ohio, which has a large Arabic‑speaking population. With the support of and funding from the State of Ohio, when they knew they were deploying here, they offered special one‑tour enlistment packages, with big bonuses, to anyone in Cleveland who could speak Arabic. It didn’t matter how old they were, there was no PFT, all they wanted was translators who they knew would be loyal to us. Those guys are terrific.”

“Finally, I’ve told the locals that anyone who works for us will be eligible for a Green Card when American forces leave Inshallahland. Frankly, General, I’ve gone out on a limb here. That promise has done more than anything else to give us the language capability we need, but I don’t know how I am going to keep it.”

“Let me work on that one,” replied General Forrest. “I think that is a great idea, and I have some friends back in Washington who may be able to help us do that.”

The Division G‑2 had been listening intently to the discussion. “Have any of our intelligence systems been useful to you, Colonel?” he asked Burke.

“Yes and no,” Burke replied. “I have to say that virtually all the intel we’ve received from higher has been either too late or wrong or both.”

“That’s no surprise to me,” replied the G‑2. “Our systems were all designed to collect and analyze data on other state militaries. What are our satellites supposed to do in this kind of war, watch a twelve‑year old boy pick up a stone?”

“But we have used technology effectively on the local level,” Burke continued. “We use our superb night-vision capability to cover virtually all of Hattin at night. I have night OPs everywhere. With rare exceptions, all they do is observe and note patterns. We don’t hassle people for being on the street at night. As any cop will tell you, safe streets have people on them, day and night. It is empty streets that are dangerous. If my guys see something going down, it’s usually street crime, so they call the local cops. Of course, the locals know we are doing this – the locals know everything we do, often before I know it – but because we don’t hassle them, it’s OK. Remember, they want safety and order.”

“We have also emplaced small, camouflaged cameras and listening devices in some key places. I’d rather not go into too much detail as to how many and where. But I can say that there aren’t many phone conversations in Hattin, or meetings in large spaces, that we are not aware of. All this information is available to any of my leaders who want it, right down to the squad level. It is an open‑architecture intel system. We do not hoard intelligence in my HQ. I’m not a dragon who wants to sleep on a pile of gold.”

The G‑2 smiled. “If I could trade my eagles for captain’s bars, I think I’d enjoy being your S‑2,” he said.

“Why don’t you do that?” asked General Forrest. “See how they are making it work, then come back here and try to do the same thing for me.”

“Roger that, sir,” said the G‑2. “Gee, I’ll really miss all my computers. I might even get to see the sun.”

“You are welcome to come back with me and stay as long as you want,” Burke said to the G‑2. “Just be aware that our intel system, like everything else, is a flat network, not a hierarchy. My units pass intel laterally and down, not just up a chain. It’s like German‑style armor tactics, in that we are more reconnaissance‑driven than intel‑driven.”

“That’s how the tactical level has to work,” said the G‑2.

“Can you give me an example?” asked General Forrest.

“Easily, sir,” Burke replied. “Let me come back to the G‑3’s question about kidnapping. The first time that happened, we immediately tapped our whole human intel network. The main way we did that was by having our guys go to the cafes and tea rooms and put out the word, which included a lot of cash for intel that proved good. Then I gathered all our squad and platoon leaders and asked them to game the situation. In a matter of hours we were sure we had the location, and when the Nighthunters went in, we were spot on. Of course, the fact that we were able to do that and do it fast sent a message to the insurgents and to the whole town, so the rescue had strategic as well as tactical meaning. It played on the physical and mental levels of war, and I think perhaps on the moral level as well, because even though we had to use violence no innocents were harmed. In fact, as is usually the case in Nighthunter ops, no one was killed.”

“You didn’t kill the enemy?” the G‑3 interjected.

“No, sir, we try not to. Sometimes we can’t avoid it, but in a clan and tribe‑based society like this one, if you kill somebody you have a blood feud with his relatives. Because the insurgents don’t have gas masks, the Nighthunters usually flood the place with CS, then just walk in and round people up. We treat all the captives with respect, and when we do kill someone, we pay blood money to his family, clan and tribe. Remember, sir, we are always trying to de‑escalate, not to escalate. We don’t want to create martyrs for the other side.”

“Of course, there are situations where we do want bloodshed. We constantly try to identify factional divisions among the insurgents. When we find one, we try to escalate it, to ramp up friction within the other side. We use lies and deceptions to bring one faction to the point where it wants to whack another, then we find discreet ways to help them do that. We do it in such a way that they all start blaming each other. Often, the insurgents do our most difficult jobs for us, killing their own leaders out of fear of being stabbed in the back. Remember, this isn’t a culture that has much trust in it.”

“One time, we planted someone to get kidnapped. He was a Nighthunter disguised as an NGO worker. We had implanted a tracking device in his body. During his captivity he was able to learn a lot about our enemies. It was easy to rescue him because we knew exactly where he was.”

“We often spot people who are trying to bring weapons into Hattin or hide them there. We do not interrupt those operations. We don’t try to capture or destroy those weapons. Instead, one of our Guardsmen knew of some stuff we could spray on their ammunition that they would not readily notice but would cause it to jam in the weapon. I had cases of the stuff in spray cans shipped in from Cleveland. We sneak in and spray their ammo stocks, then when they try something, their weapons don’t work. That really undercuts their morale. If we seized or blew up their weapons, they could fight us by bringing in more or learning to hide them better. But they can’t fight us because they don't know what we are doing. Their operations fall apart and they don’t know why.”

“They cannot ambush us because we follow no predictable patterns. They cannot surprise us because we are always watching, and they don’t know when or where they are being watched. They cannot fight back without alienating their own people. All they see is the smiling faces of my men, who have now become part of their neighborhoods and communities.”

“Anyway sir, that’s Operation David. It’s working in Hattin and in the rest of my sector. All I’m asking, sir, is please don't destroy everything we’ve worked so hard to build by having Goliath stomp on Hattin. There are plenty of other towns out there to wreck. Let Goliath go somewhere else.”

“Well, Colonel, I think that is a reasonable request,” said General Forrest. “I can tell you where Operation Goliath is going next. It is going in the wastebasket. Colonel Burke, I suspect Operation David could continue in Hattin without you for a while.”

“Yes, sir, it could,” Burke replied. “I didn’t create Operation David and I don’t run it. My men created it and they run it.”“Good, because I want you to come here, take over the G‑3 shop for a while and expand Operation David to the whole 13th Armored Division. Can you do that?”

Lt. Col. Burke thought for a few moments. “I think so, sir, if you will allow the men in the other battalions to do what mine have done.”

“I will,” said the general. “Meanwhile, I would like to ask my G‑3 to go back to Hattin with your battalion, as an observer.

“Aye, aye, sir,” responded the G‑3, with a distinct lack of enthusiasm. He sensed that his moment might have come, and gone.

“One final request, Colonel Burke,” said General Forrest. “Do you think you might present the division’s Operation David to me without PowerPoint?”

“Yes, sir!” said Burke, grinning. “With your permission, I’d like to do with the division’s PowerPoint stuff what I did with my battalion’s.”

“What is that, Colonel?” General Forrest asked.

“I let the insurgents capture it. It’s slowed their OODA Loop down to a crawl.”

“Another good idea, Colonel," Forrest replied. “I always knew PowerPoint would be useful for something.”

“Hot Wash-up” of Operation David

If we critique Operation David, what lessons about Fourth Generation war do we see?

First, we see elements that carry over from Third Generation (maneuver) warfare. They include:

* Outward focus. To have any hope of winning, a state military must focus outward on the situation, the result, and the action the situation requires, not inward on set rules, processes and methods. Stereotyped tactics and all patterns must be avoided. Commanders and units must be judged by the results they achieve, not whether they “go by the book.”

* Authority and information flows, including intelligence dissemination, must be decentralized, often down through the most junior level of command (the fire team) and the individual Marine. This in turn requires trust both up and down the chain of command.

Going through the OODA Loop (Observe‑Orient‑Decide-Act) faster than your enemies remains important, but accuracy of the Observation and Orientation may be more important than speed.[6] Because Fourth Generation forces are usually "flat," networked organizations, Marines must "flatten" their own hierarchical structures in order to remain competitive.

* In addition, we see that in Fourth Generation war the moral level is dominant, over not only the physical but also the mental level. Mentally, Mohammed thought he could not stand up to American technology, but the moral level compelled him to fight anyway.

We also see the power of weakness. In Fourth Generation warfare, the weak often have more power than the strong. One of the first people to employ the power of weakness was Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi’s insistence on non-violent tactics to defeat the British in India was and continues to be a classic strategy of Fourth Generation war. Once the British responded to Indian independence gatherings and rallies with violence, they immediately lost the moral war.

Operation David shows that a strong military force, with almost no limits on the amount of violence it can apply to a situation, versus a very weak irregular force. The weaker force has the moral high ground because it is so weak. No one likes bullies using their physical superiority in order to win at anything, and unless we are extremely careful in how we apply our physical combat power, we soon come across as a bully.

Most important, we see the central role of de‑escalation. In most Fourth Generation situations, our best hope of winning lies not in escalation but in de‑escalation. The “Hama model” (see next chapter) relies on escalation, but political factors will usually rule this approach out for Marines.

De‑escalation is how police are trained to handle confrontations. From a policeman's perspective, escalation is almost always undesirable. If a police officer escalates a situation, he may find himself charged with a crime. This reflects society’s desire for less, not more, violence. Most people in foreign societies share this desire. They will not welcome foreigners who increase the level of violence around them.

For Marines in Fourth Generation situations, the policeman is a more appropriate model than the soldier. Soldiers are taught that, if they are not achieving the result they want, they should escalate: call in more troops, more firepower, tanks, artillery, aviation, etc. In this respect, Marines may find their own training for war against other state armed forces works against them. Marines must realize that in Fourth Generation war, escalation almost always works to the advantage of their opponents. We cannot stress this point too strongly. Marines must develop a “de‑escalation mindset,” along with supporting tactics and techniques.

There may be situations where escalation on the tactical level is necessary to obtain de‑escalation on the operational and strategic levels. In such situations, Marines may want to have a special unit, analogous to a police SWAT team, that appears quickly, uses the necessary violence, then quickly disappears. This helps the Marines local people normally interact with to maintain their image as helpful friends.

Proportionality is another requirement if Marines want to avoid being seen as bullies. Using tanks, airpower and artillery against lightly armed guerillas not only injures and kills innocent civilians and destroys civilian property, it also works powerfully at the moral level of war to increase sympathy for Marines’ opponents. That, in turn, helps our Fourth Generation enemies gain local and international support, funding and recruits. In the long term, it is more likely to cost Marine lives rather than save them.

De‑escalation and proportionality in turn require Marines to be able to empathize with the local people. If they regard the local population with contempt, this contempt will carry over into their actions. Empathy cannot simply be commanded; developing it must be part of Marines’ training.

Both empathy and Force Protection are best served by integrating Marines with the local population. If Marines live in a fortified base, separate from the local people, it will inevitably create a hostile “us/them” attitude on the part both of locals and of Marines themselves. This isolates Marines from the local people, which works to the advantage of our opponents.

Empathy and integration permit effective “cultural intelligence,” which is to say Marines become able to understand how the society around them works. In Fourth Generation war, virtually all useful intelligence is human intelligence. Often, such HUMINT must both be gathered and acted on with “stealth” techniques, where Marines’ actions remain invisible to the local population. As in Third Generation war, the tactical level in Fourth Generation conflicts is reconnaissance – driven, not intelligence‑driven; the information Marines need will almost always come from below, not from higher headquarters.

An understanding of local, factional politics, including those within the camps of Marines’ opponents, will be of central importance to the effectiveness of Marines’ operations. Success is more likely through “leveraging” such factionalism than through a force‑based “direct approach.”

We must understand that, despite our vast tactical and technical superiority over most Fourth Generation opponents, at the strategic level we will almost always be the weaker party. The reason is simple: at some point we will go home, while our opponents will remain. In the battle for the support of the local population, that fact overwhelms all others. Every local citizen must ask himself, “What will my situation be when the Marines leave?” If we fracture the local society to the point where order is unlikely after we depart, anyone who has worked with us will then be in danger.

Operation David illustrates a final central point about Fourth Generation war: our strategic objectives must be realistic. Seldom if ever will we be able to re‑make other societies and cultures. If doing so is our strategic objective, we will probably be doomed to defeat before the first round is fired. Nor can we make ourselves loved by countries we invade; keeping them from hating us so much that they want to fight us will often be the best we can do. In insurgencies, “51 percent solutions” are acceptable.

Each of these points is a central characteristic of Fourth Generation war. If we fail to understand even one of them, and act so as to contradict it, we will set ourselves up for defeat. Remember, for any state military, Fourth Generation wars are easy to lose and very challenging to win. This is true despite the state military’s great superiority over its Fourth Generation opponents at the physical level of war. Indeed, to a significant degree, it is true because of that superiority. In most Fourth Generation wars, state armed forces end up defeating themselves.

Chapter II: Fighting Fourth Generation War

“Without changing our patterns of thought, we will not be able to solve the problems we created with our current patterns of thought.” Albert Einstein

At this point, you should have some understanding of Fourth Generation war – perhaps as much as anyone, since there is still much to be learned. In this chapter, we will discuss how Marines should fight in Fourth Generation conflicts.

Some Preconditions

In Book Two, chapter two of On War, Clausewitz draws an important distinction between preparing for war and the conduct of war. Most of this chapter will be devoted to the conduct of Fourth Generation war. But there are some preconditions that fall under “preparing for war” we must address first. If these preconditions are not met, success is unlikely.

The first precondition is reforming the personnel system. Entire books have been written on how to do this.[7] In general, we need a new personnel system that creates and preserves unit cohesion by stabilizing assignments, eliminates “up or out” promotion (and the careerism it mandates) and significantly reduces the size of the officer corps above the company grades. The latter reform is of central importance for “flattening” our organizations both by reducing the number of headquarters and making those that remain much smaller. Calls for decentralization that do not reduce the number and size of headquarters are empty rhetoric.[8]

The second precondition is that we must have a workable strategy. Field manuals usually do not discuss strategy, but the matter is too important not to discuss briefly. We have already noted that our strategic goals must be realistic; we cannot remake other societies and cultures in our own image. Here, we offer another caution, one related directly to fighting Fourth Generation war: our strategy must not be so misconceived that it provides a primary reason for others to fight us.

Unlike state armed forces, most Fourth Generation entities cannot simply order their men to fight. Most Fourth Generation fighting forces are, in effect, militias. Like other militias throughout history, motivating them to fight is a major challenge. We must ensure that we do not solve that problem for Fourth Generation opponents by adopting a strategy that makes their militiamen want to fight us.

What that means to specific situations varies case‑to‑case. And, the rule of not providing the enemy’s motivation applies to operational art and tactics as well as strategy. We emphasize the strategic level here in part because errors at the strategic level cannot be undone by successes at the operational and tactical levels (that is the primary lesson from Germany’s defeats in both World Wars), and because states often violate this rule in Fourth Generation conflicts. When they do so, they are defeated.

Fighting Fourth Generation War: Two Models

In fighting Fourth Generation war, there are two basic approaches or models. The first may broadly be called the “de‑escalation model,” and it is the focus of this FMFM. But there are times where Marines may employ the other model. Reflecting a case where this second model was applied successfully, we refer to it as the “Hama model.” The Hama model refers to what Syrian President Hafez al­-Assad did to the city of Hama in Syria when a non‑state entity there, the Moslem Brotherhood, rebelled against his rule.

In 1982, in Hama, Syria, the Sunni Moslem Brotherhood was gaining strength and was planning on intervening in Syrian politics through violence. The dictator of Syria, Hafez El-Assad, was alerted by his intelligence sources that the Moslem Brotherhood was looking to assassinate various members of the ruling Ba’ath Party. In fact, there is credible evidence that the Moslem Brotherhood was planning on overthrowing the Shiite/Allawite-dominated Ba’ath.

On Feb. 2, 1982, the Syrian Army was deployed into the area surrounding Hama. Within three weeks, the Syrian Army had completely devastated the city of Hama, resulting in the deaths of between 10,000 and 25,000 people, depending on the source. The use of heavy artillery, armored forces and possibly poison gas resulted in large-scale destruction and an end to the Moslem Brotherhood’s desires to overthrow the Ba’ath Party and Hafez El-Assad. After the operation was finished, one surviving citizen of Hama stated, “We don’t do politics here anymore, we just do religion.”

The results of the destruction of Hama were clear to the survivors. As an article in the June 20, 2000 edition of The Christian Science Monitor wrote, “Syria has been vilified in the West for the atrocities at Hama. But many Syrians – including a Sunni merchant class that has thrived under Alawite rule – also note that the result has been years of stability.”

What distinguishes the Hama model is overwhelming firepower and force, deliberately used to create massive casualties and destruction, in an action that is over fast. Speed is of the essence to the Hama model. If a Hama‑type operation is allowed to drag out, it will turn into a disaster on the moral level. The objective is to get it over with so fast that the effect desired locally is achieved before anyone else has time to react or, ideally, even to notice what is going on.

This FMFM will devote little attention to the Hama model because situations where Marines will be allowed to employ it will probably be few. Domestic and international political considerations will normally rule it out. It might become an option if a Weapon of Mass Destruction were used against us on our own soil.

The main reason we need to identify the Hama model is to note a serious danger facing state armed forces in Fourth Generation situations. It is easy, but fatal, to choose a course that lies between the Hama model and the de‑escalation model.­ Such a course inevitably results in defeat, because of the power of weakness.

Historian Martin van Creveld compares a state military that, with its vast superiority in lethality, continually turns its firepower on poorly‑equipped Fourth Generation opponents to an adult who administers a prolonged, violent beating to a child in a public place. Regardless of how bad the child has been, every observer sympathizes with the child. Soon, outsiders intervene, and the adult is arrested. The mismatch is so great that the adult’s action is judged a crime.[9]

This is what happens to state armed forces that attempt to split the difference between the Hama and de‑escalation models. The seemingly endless spectacle of weak opponents and, inevitably, local civilians being killed by the state military’s overwhelming power defeats the state at the moral level. That is why the rule for the Hama model is that the violence must be over fast.

Any attempt at a compromise between the two models results in prolonged violence by the state’s armed forces, and it is the duration of the mismatch that is fatal. To the degree the state armed forces are also foreign invaders, the state’s defeat occurs all the sooner. It occurs both locally and on a world scale. In the 3,000 years that the story of David and Goliath has been told, how many listeners have identified with Goliath?

Generally, the only promising option for Marines will be the de‑escalation model. What this means is that when situations threaten to turn violent or actually do so, Marines in Fourth Generation situations will usually focus their efforts on 1owering the level of confrontation until it is no longer violent. They will do so on the tactical, operational and strategic levels.

The remainder of this FMFM is devoted to the de‑escalation model.

Fighting Fourth Generation War: Less is More

When the Marine Corps is given a mission to intervene in a Fourth Generation conflict, its first objective must be to keep its own “footprint” as small as possible. This is an important way to minimize the contradiction between the physical and moral levels of war. The smaller our physical presence, the fewer negative effects our presence will have at the moral level. This is true not only for us but for the state we are attempting to buttress against Fourth Generation opponents.

If the situation is such that Marines’ presence must be obvious – that is, we cannot limit it in extent – another way to minimize our footprint is to limit its duration. Therefore, Marines will often attempt to deal with Fourth Generation enemies not by occupying an area, but by conducting punitive expeditions, or raids. These raids will usually be sea-based.

If all else fails, and only then, Marines will invade and occupy another country, usually as part of a joint or combined force. This is the least desirable option, because as foreign invaders and occupiers, we are at a severe disadvantage from the outset at the moral level of war.

Preserving the Enemy State

In situations where Marines and the joint or combined force of which they are a part do invade and occupy another country, they will often find it relatively easy to defeat the opposing state and its armed forces. While this is a decisive advantage in wars between states, in Fourth Generation situations it brings with it a serious danger. In a world where the state is growing weaker, our victory can easily destroy the enemy state itself, not merely bring about “regime change.”

If this happens, it may prove difficult or impossible for us or for anyone to re‑create a state. The result will then be the emergence of another stateless region, which is greatly to the advantage of Fourth Generation entities. As is so easy in the Fourth Generation, we will have lost by winning.

Therefore, we must learn how to preserve enemy states at the same time that we defeat them. The specifics will vary according to the situation. But in many situations, the key to preserving the enemy state will be to preserve its armed forces. Here, the revival of an 18th century practice may be helpful: rendering the opposing armed forces the “honors of war.” Instead of humiliating them, destroying them physically or, after our victory, disbanding them, we should do them no more damage than the situation requires.

Prisoners should be treated with respect. If they are senior officers, they should be treated as “honored guests,” invited to dine with our generals, given the best available quarters (perhaps better than our own), etc. After a truce or armistice, we should praise how well they fought, give them every public mark of respect, and perhaps, through the next government, increase their pay. Throughout the conflict, all our actions should be guided by the goal of enabling and encouraging the armed forces we are fighting to work with us when it is over to preserve the state.

The same is true for civil servants of the enemy state. It is critical that the state bureaucracy continue to function. Again, a quick pay raise may be helpful. When we have to remove senior leaders of the state, the number should be as small as possible. We must be careful not to leave any segments of the enemy’s society unrepresented in a new government. And, that government should be headed by local figures, not by someone from another country.

These matters will usually be decided at a level higher than the Marine Corps. But it is essential that senior Marine officers speak forcefully to the political level about the need to preserve the enemy state after it is defeated. If that state disappears, the inevitable strengthening of Fourth Generation forces that will result will fall directly on Marines at the tactical level. Strong words from senior officers early can save many Marine lives later. Offering such advice is part of the moral burden of command.

Fighting Fourth Generation Opponents: Light Infantry Warfare

As Fourth Generation war spreads, it will be inevitable that, even if all the advice offered above is followed, Marines will find themselves fighting Fourth Generation enemies. It is important both for the preparation for war and the conduct of war that Marines know that Fourth Generation war is above all light infantry warfare.

As a practical matter, the forces of most of our non-state, Fourth Generation adversaries will be all or mostly irregular light infantry. Few Fourth Generation non-state actors can afford anything else, and irregulars do enjoy some important advantages over conventional forces. They can be difficult to target, especially with air power and artillery. They can avoid stronger but more heavily equipped opponents by using concealment and dispersal (often within the civil population). They can fight an endless war of mines and ambushes. Because irregulars operate within the population and are usually drawn from it, they can solicit popular support or, if unsuccessful, compel popular submission.

Light infantry is the best counter to irregulars because it offers three critical capabilities. First, good light infantry (unless badly outnumbered) can usually defeat almost any force of irregulars it is likely to meet. It can do this in a “man to man” fight that avoids the “Goliath” image. If the light infantry does not load itself too heavily with arms and equipment, it can enjoy the same mobility as the irregulars (enhanced, as necessary by helicopters or attached motor vehicles).

Second, when it uses force, light infantry can be far more discriminating than other combat arms and better avoid collateral damage. This is critically important at both the mental and moral levels.

Third, unlike soldiers who encase themselves in tanks or other armored boxes, fly overhead in tactical aircraft or man far-away artillery pieces or monitoring stations, light infantrymen can show the local population a “human face.” They can be courteous and even apologize for their mistakes. They can protect the local people from retaliation by the irregulars, assist with public works projects or help form and train a local defense force.

Marines reading this FMFM may think at this point that we are ahead of the game because we have light infantry in our force structure already. Unfortunately, what we call light infantry is really mechanized and motorized infantry without armored fighting vehicles. It possesses neither the tactical repertoire nor the foot mobility of true light (or Jaeger) infantry. A detailed discussion of the changes required to create a genuine Marine light infantry may be found in appendix B. Here, we will note only that without true light infantry, we will seldom be able to come to grips with the elusive irregulars who will be our opponents in most Fourth Generation conflicts.

“Out-G’ing the G”: Lessons from Vietnam

Fourth Generation war is guerilla warfare more than “terrorism.” Terrorism is an enemy special operation, a single tactical action designed to have direct operational or strategic effect. Because targets that have such direct operational or strategic effect are few and are usually well-protected, terrorism normally plays a minor role in Fourth Generation conflicts – though when it does occur the effects can be wide-ranging.

Most of what Marines will face in Fourth Generation situations is guerilla warfare. Here, lessons from past guerilla wars, especially Vietnam, remain relevant on the tactical level. Perhaps the most important lesson is that to defeat guerillas, we have to become better at their own game than they are. When Colonel David Hackworth commanded a battalion in the Vietnam War, he called this “out-guerilla’ing the guerilla,” or “out-g’ing the G.” In his memoirs, About Face, he wrote,    

“We would no longer be the counterinsurgents who, like actors on a well-lit stage, gave all their secrets away to an unseen, silent and ever-watchful (insurgent) audience in a darkened theater. Instead we would approach the battlefield and the war as our enemy approached it, and in so doing begin to outguerilla the guerilla – “out-G the G,”, as I hammered it again and again into the men of the Hardcore (battalion) – and win.”

“The basic concepts behind my changes were that men, not helicopters or mechanical gimmicks, won battles, and that the only way to defeat the present enemy in the present war at a low cost in friendly casualties was through adopting the enemy’s own tactics, i.e., ‘out G-ing the G’ through surprise, deception, cunning, mobility . . . imagination, and familiarity with the terrain …. [10]

In training a Marine unit for Fourth Generation war, commanders should make use of the extensive literature on guerilla warfare, from the Spanish guerilla war against Napoleon through the present. Field training should be free-play exercises against guerilla opponents (Marine enlisted “aggressors” usually make excellent guerillas) who are allowed to make full use of such typical guerilla tools as mines, booby traps and infiltration of their enemy’s rear areas. Guerillas don’t do jousts.

Integrating with the Local Population

American-style “Force Protection” is highly disadvantageous in Fourth Generation war, because it seeks security by isolating American troops from the surrounding population. Effectiveness against Fourth Generation opponents demands the opposite: integration with the local populace. Far from making our Marines less secure, integration will improve their security over the long run. The reason is that just as Marines protect the local people, so the local people will protect them.

Perhaps the best example of this symbiotic protection is the traditional British “bobby.” The bobby was, until recently, unarmed. The reason he did not need a weapon was that just as he protected the neighborhood, the neighborhood protected him. The bobby had a regular beat, which he patrolled on foot. He came to know every house and its inhabitants, and they came to know him. He became part of the neighborhood. Just as his familiarity with his beat enabled him to see very quickly if anything was out of the ordinary, so the fact that the local people knew him as an individual meant they told him what he needed to know. They did not want any harm to come to “their” bobby.

Marines will not be able to go about unarmed in most Fourth Generation situations. But they can become part of a neighborhood. To do so, they must live in that neighborhood, get to know the people who inhabit it and become known by them in turn. They will usually do so in small groups, squads or even fire teams. To be effective, they must reside in the same neighborhood or village for some time. Results in Fourth Generation war usually come slowly.

American Marines had a program of integration with the local population during the Vietnam War, the CAP program. By all accounts, it was highly effective. Again, Marine commanders should attempt to learn from such past successes as the CAP program and not have to “reinvent the wheel” in each new conflict. The more lessons we can learn from history, the fewer we will have to learn by suffering casualties or failures or both in Fourth Generation situations.          

Do Not Escalate: De‑escalate

Unless Marines are employing the “Hama model,” it will of decisive importance that they manage most confrontations by de‑escalating, not by escalating. What does this require?

First, Marines must understand that much of their training for combat is inappropriate. In most training, Marines are taught that if they are not getting the result the situation requires, they should escalate. What this means is that Marines’ natural instincts will often be wrong in Fourth Generation conflicts. They must be conscious of this fact, or those instincts will drive them to escalate, and lose at the moral level.

Second, Marines need to learn from police. There are many police in Marine Reserve units, and it may be advisable to give them leading roles both in training for Fourth Generation war and in dealing with actual Fourth Generation situations.

The most common and most effective tool police use to de‑escalate situations is talk. Here, Marines in Fourth Generation wars immediately find themselves at a disadvantage: they do not speak the local language. Nonetheless, they must develop ways to talk with the local population, including opponents.

Specific techniques are beyond the scope of a doctrine manual. However, examples include:

* Hiring locals as interpreters. Always remember that locals who work with Marines must survive after we leave, which means they may have to work for both sides. A program where we could offer them a "Green Card" in return for loyal service could prove useful.

* Bringing American citizens who are fluent into the Marine Corps on a lateral‑entry, no‑boot‑camp basis, to provide interpreters whose loyalty we could count on.

* Giving Marines “flash cards” with key words. The cards should include phonetic pronunciations; not all locals will be literate. Also, learn local gestures.

In general, the key to successful communication is patience. Even with no common language, people can often communicate in a variety of ways. What is not useful is resorting to four-­letter words screamed in English. Marines have the self‑discipline to do better than that.

Perhaps the most important key to de‑escalation is simply not wanting to fight. In April of 2004, when U.S. Marines ended their first attempt to storm Fallujah in Iraq, the 1st Marine Division’s commander, General Mattis, said, “We did not come here to fight.” In Fourth Generation situations, that will be true in most encounters Marines have with local people, including many armed Fourth Generation entities. Given the mismatch between Marines and local armed elements, any fighting works to our disadvantage on the all‑important moral level. In addition, the disorder fighting inevitably brings works to the advantage of non‑state elements.

Marines need to educate and train themselves to develop a mental “switch.” When the switch is set for combat with state armed forces, Marines must want to fight. When instead it is set for Fourth Generation situations, Marines must be equally keen not to fight. The second involves risks, as does the first. But the second is just as important as the first, because not wanting to fight is as important to victory in the Fourth Generation as wanting to fight is in the Third. The key, as elsewhere, is Marines’ well‑known self‑discipline.

One part of “not wanting to fight” may prove especially difficult for Marines: in the Fourth Generation, victory may require taking more casualties than you inflict. In most Fourth Generation situations, it is more important not to kill the wrong people that it is to kill armed opponents. This means that even when Marines are under fire, they must discipline themselves to return fire only when they are certain they are firing on armed enemies and on them only. Anytime an innocent person is wounded or killed by Marines, his family and clan members are likely to be required by the local culture to take revenge. When that happens, Marines’ opponents get a stream of new recruits.

If Marines are fired on in a situation where it is not clear who is firing or those attacking the Marines are intermixed with the civilian population, the best solution may be to withdraw. Later, we can attempt to engage the enemy on our own terms. We need not “win” every firefight by leaving behind a pile of dead local people. In Fourth Generation conflicts, such “victories” are likely to add up to strategic defeat.

Finally, despite a policy of de‑escalation, there will be some situations where Marines do need to escalate. When that happens, we again stress that it must be over fast. To return to Martin van Creveld’s analogy, an adult can get away with giving a kid one good whack in public. He cannot administer a prolonged beating. Once the escalation terminates, Marines must make every effort to demonstrate that de‑escalation remains Marine Corps policy.

Politics is War, and All Politics is Local

Clausewitz, writing of war between states, said that “War is the extension of politics by other means.” In Fourth Generation situations, the opposite is more likely to be true: politics can be a useful extension of war, one that gives us power but also is consistent with de‑escalation.

Nowhere more than in a post‑state, Fourth Generation situation is the old saying true, “All politics is local.” When the state vanishes, everything becomes local. By understanding and leveraging local political balances, we may be able to attain many objectives without fighting.

A useful model here is the old British Northwest Frontier Agent. The Northwest Frontier was the lawless tribal area between British India and Afghanistan. In this area, the British government was represented by Frontier Agents. These were Englishmen, but they were also men who had lived in the area for a long time and knew the local players and politics well. Their actual power was small – some cash and usually a company of Sepoys, Indian troops. But that small power was often enough to tilt the local political and military balance for or against a local chieftain. The local leaders were aware of this, and they usually found it worth their while to maintain good relations with the British so as to keep them on their side, or at least not actively intervening against them.

Here again, the key is good local intelligence, especially political intelligence. By integrating with the local population, Marines can learn what the local political divisions and alignments are so that they can play on them. Just as with the Northwest Frontier Agents, Marines can leverage relationships to achieve their ends while avoiding fighting.

Your Most Important Supporting Arm: Cash

What artillery and air power are in Third Generation war, cash is in the Fourth Generation: your most useful supporting arm. Local Marine commanders must have a bottomless “slush fund” of cash to use at their discretion. Obviously, this cash cannot be subject to normal accounting procedures; most will, necessarily and properly, be used for bribes. Regulations which currently make this difficult or impossible must be changed.

One way to do this might be to establish the billet of “Combat Contracting Officer.” The Combat Contracting Officer would have legal authority to pay money as he sees fit in order to support the Marine commander’s objectives. This would include payments to get local services operating quickly, support local political leaders who are working with Marines and obtain local resources Marines could use. Again, it would include authority to pay bribes. That is simply how much of the world works, and if Marines are to obtain results they must be able to adjust to the world they find themselves in rather than expecting the world to operate as we would like it to.

The Fourth Generation's Geneva Conventions: Chivalric Codes

While Marines will remain bound by the Geneva Conventions in Fourth Generation conflicts, their opponents will not be. Non‑state forces are not party to law between states.

However, in some cases it may be possible to agree with Marines’ Fourth Generation opponents on a “chivalric code” that sets rules both sides will follow. Some (not all) Fourth Generation entities have self‑images that make honor, generosity, and lineage tracing to “knightly” forebears important to them. Just as chivalry was important before the state, it may again become important after the state. Where these attributes are present, it may be to our advantage (especially on the moral level) to propose a “chivalric code.”

The specifics of such a code would vary place‑to‑place. It might include agreements such as that we will not use air bombardment and they will not set off bombs in areas where civilians are likely to be present. Regardless of the specifics, such codes will generally work to our advantage. They will diminish our “Goliath” image, demonstrate that we respect the local people and their culture, and generally help de‑escalate the conflict. They will also assist in improving public order, which in turn helps in preserving or re‑creating a local state. Disadvantages such codes may bring to us at the physical level will generally be more than compensated by advantages at the mental and moral levels.

The “Mafia Model”: Everyone Gets Their Cut

Just as the Northwest Frontier Agent offers us some useful ideas for Fourth Generation conflicts, so does the “Mafia Model.” How would the mafia do an occupation?

One key to a mafia’s success is the concealed use of force as well as money as weapons. If an individual needs to be “whacked,” then it is usually done with little fanfare and in the shadows. The rule is, “No fingerprints.” Unless there is a specific message to be sent out to a larger audience, people who are killed by the Mafia are almost never found. This usually requires patience. It often takes a long time for the right situation to present itself.

If there is a message to be made to a larger audience, then a public display of violence can be used. But this is usually avoided, as it can backfire against the aims and goals of the organization due to public opinion.

The mafia also operates on the principle that “everybody gets his cut.” If you are willing to work with the mafia, you get part of the profits. Money is a powerful motivator, especially in the poorer parts of the world where most Fourth Generation conflicts occur. In working with the local population, Marines should carefully design their approach so that everyone who cooperates with them gets a financial reward. The rewards should grow as the “business” expands, that is, as Marines get closer to achieving their objectives. This is also important for leaving a stable situation behind when Marines finally withdraw. If everyone is profiting from the new situation Marines have created, they will be less eager to overturn it and return to instability.

Techniques in Fourth Generation War

In general, techniques have no place in a doctrinal manual because techniques should never be doctrine. Defining techniques as doctrine is a mark of a Second Generation military. In the Third and Fourth Generations, techniques are entirely at the discretion of whoever, regardless of rank, has to get a result. He is responsible only for getting the result, never for employing a set method. That is doctrine!

Third Generation militaries also recognize that any technique usually has a short "shelf life" in combat. As soon as the enemy comes to expect it, he turns it against you. This, in turn, means that the ability to invent new techniques is highly important. Units that develop a successful new technique should communicate their discovery laterally to other Marine units. Fourth Generation war makes this all the more important, because Fourth Generation opponents will often use techniques very different from our own. Their "way of war" will reflect their culture, not ours.

Here, we will nonetheless offer a few techniques for Fourth Generation war, as examples only. The purpose of doing so is to illustrate the creative thinking that is required for techniques for Fourth Generation conflicts:

* Equip every patrol with a camera. If the patrol is fired on, it attempts to get a picture of those doing the firing. Then, a “contract” is put out on those who can be identified.

* Sponsor a local television program where captured enemies who have killed civilians are interrogated by the local police. This has been highly effective in Iraq.

* Distinguish between captured opponents on the basis of motivation, tribe, religion or some other basis that local people will recognize. Then, treat some as “honored guests” and send them home, while continuing to detain others. This can cause suspicions and divisions among our opponents.

Intelligence in Fourth Generation Warfare

In conventional warfare, intelligence specialists employ an elaborate system of information collection, processing and dissemination called the Intelligence Cycle. Intelligence officers draft complex, multi-level collection plans. They develop and manage detailed enemy force orders of battle, focusing on unit types, sizes, equipment, activities and locations. They “template” enemy forces based primarily on detailed terrain analyses, doctrine and prescribed, generic unit relationships. Personal identities don’t matter; except at the highest levels (anonymous) commanders and their units are viewed interchangeably as things to be represented on a map with rectangular symbols. The conventional enemy is viewed as a large, elaborate, depersonalized system of people, equipment and military functions.                                                                                            

As in other areas, intelligence planning, collection, processing and dissemination is hierarchal, driven from the top down. The nature of intelligence is such that it is the most stove-piped and compartmentalized functional area of a military organization. As a result, non-intelligence professionals participate merely as “intelligence customers,” to whom the intelligence itself is carefully rationed.

In Fourth Generation warfare, intelligence is fundamentally different. The starting point is the local culture, history and sociology. In a failed or failing state, the “battlefield” is a shifting patchwork quilt of social organizations and power relationships. The social organizations may be based on personalities, family ties, ideologies, religions or commercial enterprises. Trying to mold irregular forces into order of battle “templates” is misleading and minimizes the most important element of understanding your enemy – the human dimension.

Fourth Generation intelligence works exactly opposite of conventional warfare intelligence; its starting point is bottom up. In Fourth Generation war, every Marine is an “intelligence professional,” operating in an open architecture that shares information freely up and down and laterally. Instead of specialists operating in some elaborate, rule-based, insular system, every Marine is learning from the local population, building networks and using his knowledge of the local situation and culture to plan and execute intelligence collection schemes.

Local information is usually the only information that matters; “intelligence” from higher headquarters is usually too late or too general to be of use. The model is a good beat cop who knows how to effectively interact with the locals, and also recognizes when things are abnormal in the area his beat covers.

The Role of the Reservists in Fourth Generation Warfare

Reservists and National Guardsmen may be better suited to Fourth Generation situations than many regulars. They are, on average, older and better educated than the Active Component Marine. Most are skilled in trades other than warfighting.

Police officers and prison guards are often found in Reserve and National Guard units. The police officer who has walked a beat in any major American city has dealt with gang warfare, illicit drug dealing, gun running and other criminal enterprises. Fourth Generation war does not look much different than the streets of an American ghetto. The level of violence may be more extreme, but many police who serve on SWAT teams in major cities have dealt with more violence in a month than most Marines do in a year.

Reservists often have many skills that can help local people who are looking for American protection. When an Army National Guard infantry captain returned from Iraq in late 2004, he said that “what we needed weren’t grunts. There were plenty of them around. We looked for plumbers, carpenters, electricians, masons and anyone who was handy with construction material. When we fixed the plumbing in someone’s house in Iraq or rebuilt a wall for them, we knew that we would be safe in their neighborhood, as the Iraqis did not have the knowledge and capabilities themselves and were looking for any help they could get.”

The skills needed are not limited to simple tasks. Many Reservists are engineers, doctors, city planners, lawyers or professionals. The skills of each Marine and Army Reservist and National Guardsman should be identified at the battalion level. As a Fourth Generation situation develops, the battalion commander can then assign his Reservists and Guardsmen to tasks that take advantage of their civilian skills.

Fourth Generation War and the Press

Marines can take two different general approaches to the press, defensive or offensive. In the defensive approach, the objective is to minimize bad press by controlling the flow of news. This was typical of how militaries approached the press in Second and Third Generation wars.

The offensive approach seeks to use the press more than to control it, though some control measures may still be in place. Many Fourth Generation entities are highly effective in using the press, including the informal internet press, for their own ends. If Marines do not also undertake a press offensive, they are likely to find themselves ceding to the enemy a battlefield that is important at the mental and moral levels.

In turn, the key to an offensive press strategy is openness. Few members of the press or media such as the internet will allow themselves to be so controlled as to present only the good news about Marines’ activities. Unless Marines are open about mistakes and failures, the press will devote most of their effort to ferreting them out. Worse, Marines will lack credibility when they have real good news to present.

Paradoxically, openness is the key to controlling negative information in the few situations where that is really necessary. Sometimes, openness builds such a cooperative relationship with the media that they become part of your team and don’t want to report something that will really hurt you. At other times, you can expend the credibility you have built through a general policy of openness to deceive when deception is absolutely necessary. Just remember that when you do so, you may be using your only silver bullet.                                                                                                

Winning at the Mental and Moral Levels 

At the mental level, Fourth Generation war turns Clausewitz on his head. Clausewitz wrote

that war is the extension of politics by other means. At the mental level of Fourth Generation war, politics is the extension of war by other means. Not only are all politics local, but everything local is politics. 

To win, Marines must learn how to make the local politics work toward the ends they are seeking. If they fail, no military gains will last once Marines depart, as at some point they must. Much of this manual has been devoted to what Marines must do to succeed in the local political environment, including understanding the local culture, integrating with the local population and developing an effective bottom-up intelligence system. 

At the most powerful level of war, the moral level, the key to victory is to convince the local people to identify with us, or at least to acquiesce to us, rather than identifying with our enemies. Because we are foreign invaders representing a different culture (and sometimes a different religion), this is a difficult challenge.

Meeting this challenge will depend to a significant degree not on what we do, but on what we do not do. We cannot insult and brutalize the local population and simultaneously convince them to identify with us. We cannot represent a threat to their historic culture, religion or way of life. We cannot come across as Goliath, because no one identifies with Goliath. Nor do people identify with Paris, the Trojan champion in the Iliad, who fought from a distance (he was an archer) and was therefore a coward.

This does not mean we should be weak, or project an image of weakness. That is also fatal, because in most other cultures, men do not identify with the weak. History is seldom determined by majorities. It is determined by minorities who are willing to fight. In most Fourth Generation situations, the critical “constituency” we must convince to identify with or acquiesce to us is young men of fighting age. To them, we must appear to be strong without offering a challenge to fight that honor requires them to accept. They may identify with an outsider who is strong. They will fight any outsider who humiliates them    

In terms of ordinary, day-to-day actions, there is a Golden Rule for winning at the moral level, and it is this: Don’t do anything to someone else that, if it were done to you, would make you fight. If you find yourself wondering whether an action will lead more of the local people to fight you, ask yourself if you would fight if someone did the same thing to you. This Golden Rule has a corollary: when you make a mistake and hurt or kill someone you shouldn’t or damage or destroy something you shouldn’t – and you will – apologize and pay up, fast. Repair and rebuild, quickly, if you can, but never promise to repair or rebuild and then not follow through    

This brings us to the bottom line for winning at the moral level: your words and your actions must be consistent. We have deliberately not talked about Psychological Operations (PsyOps) in this manual, because in Fourth Generation war, everything you do is a PsyOp – whether you want it to be or not. No matter what the local population hears you say, they will decide whether to identify with you, acquiesce to you or fight you depending on what you do. Any inconsistency between the two creates gaps your enemies will be quick to exploit.

Keep in mind that Fourth Generation war is also fought on the home front. Our Fourth Generation opponents will attempt to win strategically by pulling our own country apart at the moral level. Contradictions between what Marines say and what they do in the local theater of war will become known at home. There, they will work to fracture public support for the war and generate sympathy for the Fourth Generation forces opposing us. No matter how successful Marines are in the field, if our opponents succeed in pulling us apart at home, we will lose the war.   


With the adoption of this manual, the Imperial and Royal Austro-Hungarian Marine Corps officially accepts the Fourth Generation of Modern War as part of our doctrine. This marks progress on the road to ensuring we are preparing for war as it is, not as we might like it to be.

In the 1930s, the U.S. Marine Corps, which was then just beginning to develop amphibious warfare, issued a “Tentative Manual for Landing Operations.” In similar fashion, this manual is also tentative. It must be so, because state militaries are only beginning to understand Fourth Generation war. Experience in such conflicts will undoubtedly bring many revisions, some possibly quite large.

Regardless of how our doctrine for Fourth Generation war changes in the future, one characteristic of the Fourth Generation is likely to remain: it will still be very challenging for state armed forces to defeat Fourth Generation enemies. Nothing could be more incorrect than to believe that if Marines just follow what is laid out in this manual – in present or future editions – they will win. The complexities and subtleties of the moral level of war are far too great to permit any such confidence.

It therefore logically follows that we should avoid Fourth Generation wars whenever that is possible. This brings us back to a point we made in our discussion of strategy: senior Marine leaders must be prepared to discuss the risks and uncertainties of Fourth Generation war with civilian decision‑makers, whether their advice is desired or not.

Another moral burden lies on all Marines, regardless of rank. To assist the Marine Corps and our country to defend effectively against Fourth Generation threats, we must study war! A useful way to begin that study is with the "canon," a list of seven books which, read in the correct order, will take the reader from the First Generation of Modern War through the Second and Third Generations and into the Fourth. A short annotated bibliography describing the canon is included in this FMFM as appendix C. Any Marine who is unfamiliar with these works should remedy that deficiency as soon as his other duties permit.

While the canon offers a necessary framework, Marines' study of war ought not end there. Important new works on Fourth Generation war, both books and articles, appear regularly. Marines have a duty to study these as well. And, Marines should contribute their own ideas and observations, based both on study and on personal experiences and observations, to this growing literature.

A prominent American political figure recently wrote, “The real cause of the great upheavals which precede changes of civilizations, such as the fall of the Roman Empire and the rise of the Arabian Empire, is a profound modification of the ideas of the peoples.” That well describes what is now happening in the world Marines must confront. Marines may choose either to be driven by those profound modifications of ideas, or to be agents of change by developing ideas of their own. His Imperial and Royal Majesty, Kaiser Otto, expects his Marines to select the second option.

Viribus Unitis!

Appendix A: The First Three Generations of Modern War

The Chinese military philosopher Sun Tzu said, "He who understands himself and understands his enemy will prevail in one hundred battles.” In order to understand both ourselves and our enemies in Fourth Generation conflicts, it is helpful to use the full framework of the Four Generations of modern war. What are the first three generations?

First Generation war was fought with line and column tactics. It lasted from the Peace of Westphalia until around the time of the American Civil War. Its importance for us today is that the First Generation battlefield was usually a battlefield of order, and the battlefield of order created a culture of order in state militaries. Most of the things that define the difference between "military" and "civilian" – saluting, uniforms, careful gradations of rank, etc. – are products of the First Generation and exist to reinforce a military culture of order. Just as most state militaries are still designed fight other state militaries, so they also continue to embody the First Generation culture of order.

The problem is that, starting around the middle of the 19th century, the order of the battlefield began to break down. In the face of mass armies, nationalism that made soldiers want to fight and technological developments such as the rifled musket, the breechloader, barbed wire and machine guns, the old line and column tactics became suicidal. But as the battlefield became more and more disorderly, state militaries remained locked into a culture of order. The military culture that in the First Generation had been consistent with the battlefield became increasingly contradictory to it. That contradiction is one of the reasons state militaries have so much difficulty in Fourth Generation war, where not only is the battlefield disordered, so is the entire society in which the conflict is taking place.

Second Generation war was developed by the French Army during and after World War I. It dealt with the increasing disorder of the battlefield by attempting to impose order on it. Second Generation war, also sometimes called firepower/attrition warfare, relied on centrally controlled indirect artillery fire, carefully synchronized with infantry, cavalry and aviation, to destroy the enemy by killing his soldiers and blowing up his equipment. The French summarized Second Generation war with the phrase, "The artillery conquers, the infantry occupies.”

Second Generation war also preserved the military culture of order. Second Generation militaries focus inward on orders, rules, processes and procedures. There is a “school solution” for every problem. Battles are fought methodically, so prescribed methods drive training and education, where the goal is perfection of detail in execution. The Second Generation military culture, like the First, values obedience over initiative (initiative is feared because it disrupts synchronization) and relies on imposed discipline.

The United States Army and the U.S. Marine Corps both learned Second Generation war from the French Army during the First World War, and it largely remains the "American way of war" today. 

Third Generation war, also called maneuver warfare, was developed by the German Army during World War I. Third Generation war dealt with the disorderly battlefield not by trying to impose order on it but by adapting to disorder and taking advantage of it. Third Generation war relied less on firepower than on speed and tempo. It sought to present the enemy with unexpected and dangerous situations faster than he could cope with them, pulling him apart mentally as well as physically.

The German Army’s new Third Generation infantry tactics were the first non‑linear tactics. Instead of trying to hold a line in the defense, the object was to draw the enemy in, then cut him off, putting whole enemy units “in the bag.” On the offensive, the German “storm-troop tactics” of 1918 flowed like water around enemy strong points, reaching deep into the enemy’s rear area and also rolling his forward units up from the flanks and rear. These World War I infantry tactics, when used by armored and mechanized formations in World War II, became known as “Blitzkrieg.”

Just as Third Generation war broke with linear tactics, it also broke with the First and Second Generation culture of order. Third Generation militaries focus outward on the situation, the enemy, and the result the situation requires. Leaders at every level are expected to get that result, regardless of orders. Military education is designed to develop military judgment, not teach processes or methods, and most training is force‑on‑force free play because only free play approximates the disorder of combat. Third Generation military culture also values initiative over obedience, tolerating mistakes so long as they do not result from timidity, and it relies on self‑discipline rather than imposed discipline, because only self‑discipline is compatible with initiative.

When Second and Third Generation war met in combat in the German campaign against France in 1940, the Second Generation French Army was defeated completely and quickly; the campaign was over in six weeks. Both armies had similar technology, and the French actually had more (and better) tanks. Ideas, not weapons, dictated the outcome.

Despite the fact that Third Generation war proved its decisive superiority more than 60 years ago, most of the world’s state armed forces remain Second Generation. The reason is cultural: they cannot make the break with the culture of order that the Third Generation requires. This is another reason why, around the world, state armed forces are not doing well against non‑state enemies. Second Generation militaries fight by putting firepower on targets, and Fourth Generation fighters are very good at making themselves untargetable. Virtually all Fourth Generation forces are free of the First Generation culture of order; they focus outward, they prize initiative and, because they are highly decentralized, they rely on self‑discipline. Second Generation state armed forces are largely helpless against them.

Appendix B: Toward a True Light Infantry

Current Marine infantry is “light” only in the sense that it does not have its own medium or heavy armored vehicles. However, it has a superabundance of everything else. In the field, our “light” infantrymen routinely carry more than 50 kilograms of body armor, weapons, ammunition, radios, field equipment, etc. They must depend heavily on motor vehicles. These vehicles, in turn, tie them to roads and open terrain, expose them to mines and ambush and diminish their ability to operate in urban terrain.

Reducing our motor vehicle dependence and making our infantry light will require some hard choices, including a reduction in the number and size of crew-served weapons. Not only are the weapons themselves heavy, each one requires several times its own weight in ammunition. Although modest firepower levels are enough to defeat most Fourth Generation foes, we still arm our “light” infantry as if for conventional combat against heavily armed opponents who fight as we do. Excessive firepower not only hurts our mobility but also is more likely to cause collateral damage and alienate the local population. We need to rethink and retool to fight a very different enemy.

If light infantry must augment its firepower to meet a particular situation, it can do so in any of three ways. The way least likely to cause collateral damage is to temporarily increase its ammunition allowance. This will reduce mobility but only until the excess ammunition is consumed. Extra ammunition should include rockets with disposable launchers such as the AT-4 antitank weapon or the Russian RPO-A flame weapon.

A second way is with artillery or air strikes. Although physically powerful, this is also likely to cause a level of damage that turns physical success into moral disaster.

A third way is to reinforce the light infantry with heavier combat units. These can be tank or other armored fighting vehicle units or they can be motorized weapons units armed with mortars, antitank weapons, heavy machineguns or other weapons too heavy to hand-carry. With all these options available there should be no reason for the light infantry not to have the firepower it needs (when it needs it) to deal with any conceivable foe.

However, the job of transforming our infantry into true light infantry is much more than just reducing the load it must carry. Other tasks include:

* Light infantry must have a full tactical repertoire. It cannot be accustomed merely to holding positions, or calling for fire support whenever it contacts the enemy. It must be expert at ambushes, penetrations and encirclements in both rural and urban settings. Light infantry tactics are above all hunting or stalking tactics. They must rely heavily on stealth, invisibility and trickery. To real light infantry, ambush is a mentality, not merely a technique. To make this a reality there must be a complete overhaul of our troops’ training. Although total training time must increase, the emphasis should shift away from specific techniques and technical skills. Instead, it should be placed on tactical concepts, the inculcation of a “hunter mindset” and the ability to make rapid but sound decisions, based on the (necessarily limited) information at hand.

* In Fourth Generation war, most light infantry combat will occur at the company level or below. Shifting the tactical focus to company-sized and smaller units will probably mean a major force reorganization in favor of a “flatter” command structure. To flatten a command structure is to have fewer echelons control the same number of troops. For example, a conventional command structure would divide a dozen maneuver companies among three or four battalion headquarters. The battalions, in turn, report to a regimental or brigade headquarters. A flatter version of this might eliminate the battalion headquarters and have the regimental or brigade headquarters control all companies directly. (If one prefers to be less radical this regiment might have only eight companies. Prior to 1914, during an era that often presented similar challenges to what Fourth Generation war currently presents, the standard British battalion had eight rifle companies. This gave the battalion great flexibility in irregular warfare because it enabled it to create numerous detachments while still retaining a tactically viable force under its own control.) Conventional wisdom has it that a given command element cannot tactically control more than four maneuver elements. However, on a Fourth Generation battlefield tactical control above the company level is seldom needed. When it is needed, it is likely to be for only a limited time and to involve limited forces. Instead of worrying about tactical control, a higher headquarters should focus on administration, logistics, operational and strategic objectives, intelligence analysis and dissemination and relations with the local rulers. It should usually leave tactical matters to its platoons and companies.

* In addition to a flatter command structure, combat companies need greater logistical independence. Although this requires additional manpower, a company should have its own administrative, mess and supply echelons (as it did before 1960). Centralizing logistics at battalion level or higher ties the companies much more closely to their higher headquarters than is desirable in Fourth Generation war. Barring heavy combat, companies should be able to subsist on one to three supply deliveries (LOGPAC) per week. They should be able to store and distribute supplies of all classes and prepare hot rations using their own assets and without diverting personnel from their fighting elements.

* Although every effort should be made to trim “fat” from headquarters, logistics or other support units, combat companies should have an allowance of “basic” or “other duty” privates (as they did prior to 1960). Such privates have no specific duties and are there to maintain the company’s strength in the face of the normal attrition (accidents, absences, sickness etc.) that affects any organization. Until needed to fill vacancies they would familiarize themselves with the unit and do odd jobs not otherwise provided for in the unit’s table of organization. This deliberately programmed “fat” enables combat units to better maintain themselves despite attrition and unexpected contingencies.

* Light infantry should not have organic transportation (other than their boots and maybe bicycles and/or disposable handcarts made of plastic tubing). Their missions and mobility requirements are so many and varied that no single set of transport vehicles could possibly meet more than a fraction of them. In helicopter operations or in close or mountainous terrain (where light infantry is most useful and effective), current infantry units with organic motor vehicles would have to leave most of their vehicles and many heavier weapons behind. On the other hand, light infantry in open terrain might need more (and heavier) vehicles than would ever be organic to it. Motor vehicles need parts, fuel, maintenance man-hours and dedicated drivers and/or crewmembers. Organic vehicles also increase the infantry’s logistical “footprint” and reduce its strategic mobility. The best way to avoid these problems is to place what were formerly the infantry’s organic vehicles in transportation units that support the infantry on an “as needed” basis only. Marines are already doing this with their aircraft, armored amphibian vehicles and heavier trucks but they must also do it with the light trucks that the infantry currently “owns.”

* Weapons should be simple and, above all, they and their ammunition must be light and portable, even over long distances. Weapons requiring motorized transportation (even if only for their ammunition) should be issued only to weapons units. Light infantrymen must learn to depend on their own weapons rather than supporting arms.

* Light infantry should be able to “live off the land” for prolonged periods and in almost any part of the world. It should be trained and equipped to use cash to draw on the local infrastructure for most of its needs.

This type of true light infantry, or Jaegers, is very different from what Marines now know as light infantry. Our Marine Corps needs a program to develop true light infantry as quickly as possible, making full use of the extensive literature on the subject. To the degree our Fourth Generation opponents can field better light infantry than we can, our ability to prevail over them is greatly diminished­.

Appendix C: The Canon

There are seven books which, read in the order given, will take the reader from the First Generation through the Second, the Third and on into the Fourth. We call them “the canon.”

The first book in the canon is C.E. White, The Enlightened Soldier. This book explains why you are reading all the other books. It is the story of Scharnhorst, the leader of the Prussian military reform movement of the early 1800s, as a military educator. With other young officers, Scharnhorst realized that if the Prussian army, which had changed little since the time of Frederick the Great, fought Napoleon, it would lose and lose badly. Instead of just waiting for it to happen, he put together a group of officers who thought as he did, the Militaerische Gesellschaft, and they worked out a program of reforms for the Prussian army (and state). Prussia’s defeat at the battle of Jena opened the door to these reforms, which in turn laid the basis for the German army’s development of Third Generation war in the early 20th century.

The next book is Robert Doughty, The Seeds of Disaster. This is the definitive history of the development of Second Generation warfare in the French army during and after World War I. This book is in the canon because the U.S. Army and Marine Corps learned modern war from the French, absorbing Second Generation war wholesale (as late as 1930, when the U.S. Army wanted a manual on operational art, it just took the French manual on Grand Tactics, translated it and issued it as its own). The Seeds of Disaster is the only book in the canon that is something of a dull read, but it is essential to understanding why the American armed forces act as they do.

The third book, Bruce Gudmundsson’s Stormtroop Tactics, is the story of the development of Third Generation war in the German army in World War I. It is also a book on how to change an army. Twice during World War I, the Germans pulled their army out of the Western Front unit-by-unit and retrained it in radically new tactics. Those new tactics broke the deadlock of the trenches, even if Germany had to wait for the development of the Panzer divisions to turn tactical success into operational victory.

Book four, Martin Samuels’s Command or Control?, compares British and German tactical development from the late 19th century through World War I. Its value is the clear distinctions it draws between the Second and Third Generations, distinctions the reader will find useful when looking at the U.S. armed forces today. The British were so firmly attached to the Second Generation – at times, even the First – that German officers who had served on both fronts in World War I often said British troop handling was even worse than Russian. Bruce Gudmundsson argues that in each generation, one Brit is allowed really to understand the Germans. In our generation, Martin Samuels is that Brit.

The fifth book in the canon is again by Robert Doughty, the head of the History Department at West Point and the best American historian of the modern French army: The Breaking Point. This is the story of the battle of Sedan in 1940, where Guderian’s Panzers crossed the Meuse and then turned and headed for the English Channel in a brilliant example of operational art. Here, the reader sees the Second and Third Generations clash head-on. Why does the Third Generation prevail? Because over and over, at decisive moments the Third Generation Wehrmacht takes initiative (often led by NCOs in doing so) while the French wait for orders. What the French did was often right, but it was always too late.

The sixth book in the canon is Martin van Creveld’s Fighting Power. While The Breaking Point contrasts the Second and Third Generations in combat, Fighting Power compares them as institutions. It does so by contrasting the U.S. Army in World War II with the German Wehrmacht. What emerges is a picture of two radically different institutions, each consistent with its doctrine. This book is important because it illustrates why you cannot combine Third Generation, maneuver warfare doctrine with a Second Generation, inward-focused, process-ridden, centralized institution.

The seventh and final book in the canon is Martin van Creveld’s, The Transformation of War. Easily the most important book on war written in the last quarter-century, Transformation lays out the basis of Fourth Generation war, the state’s loss of its monopoly on war and on social organization. In the 21st century, as in all centuries up to the rise of the state, many different entities will fight war, for many different reasons, not just raison d’etat. Clausewitz’s “trinity” of people, government and army vanishes, as the elements disappear or become indistinguishable from one another. Van Creveld subsequently wrote another book, The Rise and Decline of the State, which lays out the historical basis of the theory in Transformation.

Editor’s Note: Send comments on the proposed FMFM 1-A to Bill Lind at

This manual was compiled under the direction of SFTT Contributing Editor William S. Lind, a veteran defense policy analyst, who is Director of the Center for Cultural Conservatism at the Free Congress Foundation.He can be reached through the foundation’s mailform.

[1] For a description of the first three generations, see Appendix A.

[2] Republished with two follow-up pieces in the November, 2001 Marine Corps Gazette.

[3] Martin van Creveld, The Rise and Decline of the State (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, U.K.; 1999).

[4] The Israeli military historian Martin van Creveld calls this kind of war “non-trinitarian warfare,” because it does not fit within Clausewitz’s trinity of government, army and people where each of those elements is related but distinct.

[5] San Francisco Chronicle, “Special unit wants to win hearts, minds” by John Koopman (no date available)

[6] See Col. Thomas Hammes, The Sling and the Stone

[7] See especially The Path to Victory by Donald Vandergriff (Presidio Press; Novato, CA; 2002)

[8] Another needed personnel reform is changing the way we develop junior officers. The current system is a “sausage factory” based on numbers; officer schools' "missions" are defined in terms of the number of people they graduate, not whether those newly‑minted officers are qualified to lead in combat.

Officer education and training for Fourth Generation war must be based on quality, not quantity, at every grade level. The rule should be, "Better no officer than a bad officer." Schools must constantly put students in difficult, unexpected situations, then require them to decide and act under time pressure. Schooling must take students out of their "comfort zones." Stress – mental and moral as well as physical – must be constant. War games, map exercises, and free‑play field exercises must constitute bulk of the curriculum. Drill and ceremonies are not important. Higher command levels overseeing officers' schools must look for high drop‑out and expulsion rates as signs that the job is being done right. Those officers who successfully pass through the schools must continue to be developed by their commanders; learning cannot stop at the schoolhouse door.

Our Marine Corps takes in high quality people at both the enlisted and officer levels. The problem is what the system then does with them. That system must be changed to give us the imaginative, adaptable, responsibility‑seeking officers and Marines Fourth Generation war requires. The current process-focused military education system is an inappropriate holdover from the Second Generation; reforming it must be a top priority­.

[9] Conversation between Martin van Creveld and William S. Lind, May 2004, Bergen, Norway.

[10] Colonel David H. Hackworth, About Face (Simon and Schuster, New York, 1989) pp. 679-680