Ongoing events in Iraq show how difficult it is for the world's only remaining superpower to impose its will upon other peoples. From Vietnam, French and US, to Afghanistan, Russian and US, to Israel and the Palestinians, to Somalia and Kosovo, ...
recent history is replete with powerful military forces being tied up by seemingly weaker opponents. This is Fourth Generation War (4GW), and Colonel Thomas Hammes, United States Marine Corps, tells you all about it. The author explains asymetrical warfare (4GW) as the means by which Davids can defeat Goliaths.
"4GW (Fourth Generation Warfare) is the only kind of war America has ever lost. And we have done so three times in Vietnam, Lebanon, and Somalia. This form of warfare has also defeated the French in Vietnam and Algeria, and the USSR in Afghanistan As the only Goliath left in the world, we should be worried that the worlds Davids have found a sling and stone that work." Chapter 1, The Sling and the Stone: On War in the 21st Century
The War in Iraq. The War on Terror. These types of "asymmetrical" warfare are the conflicts of the 21st century and show how difficult it is for the world's only remaining superpower to battle insurgents and terrorists who will fight unconventionally in the face of superior military power.
This change in military conflict may seem sudden. But in his new book, The Sling and the Stone: On War in the 21st Century, Thomas X. Hammes, United States Marine Corps, details how "Fourth Generation Warfare" or "4GW" has evolved over decades, with powerful military forces from economically advanced nations being defeated by seemingly weaker opponents.
Hammes, a full colonel on active duty, spent years training insurgents in various locations around the world. He was stationed in Somalia in the early 1990s before the withdrawal of American troops after the events in Mogadishu. In The Sling and the Stone, he uses this extensive experience and his lifelong study of military history to illuminate how war is evolution, not revolution, and that a "weaker" opponent will continually evolve to use ways to avoid direct military engagement. Instead of winning militarily, an insurgency will work to test the political will of a more powerful nation to stay the course during a war. "We win the battles," he states, "but we lose the war."
Hammes has seen the capability of insurgents firsthand. "I was particularly impressed with two aspects of the men I met," he writes. "First was their utter determination to continue the struggle despite the odds. They were not deterred by fear of death The second outstanding trait was the remarkable ingenuity they displayed for overcoming problems. I found insurgents are not impressed with conventional power. Any nation that assumes it is inherently superior to another is setting itself up for disaster."
The U.S. has not properly prepared, he contends, for the military needs and political will that will be required to win a "low tech conflict" outside the expectations of the Department of Defenses 20th century planning for a short-term conflict with a high-tech, symmetrical enemy like the Soviet Union. Featuring an overview of the first three generations of modern war, Hammes then focuses on examples of the evolution of 4GW, and how it will require decades instead of months or years to win. He also examines in detail "transnational" enemies like Al Qaeda, and how the U.S. militarys focus on high-tech weapons designed to overpower an enemy in a short amount of time means little when the enemy has a different concept of the time the conflict will last.
The Sling and the Stone is must reading for anyone who wants to know what it will take for the West to "win" the war on terror. As a leading expert on insurgency, asymmetrical warfare, and the unconventional methods used by insurgents like those in Iraq and Afghanistan today, Hammes explains in full detail what to expect from the enemy in the first major war of the 21st century.
Number of pages: 336
Date of publication: 12/09/2004
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