Book Review: 4th Generation Warfare Handbook
By William S. Lind and LTC Gregory A. Theile, USMC
“War is always changing. Our enemies learn and adapt, and we must do the same or lose.” These words open the most insightful book I have read concerning modern warfare, 4th Generation Warfare Handbook. The authors have vast experience in warfare, both the study and waging of it. William S. Lind graduated magna cum laude from Dartmouth College in 1969. He later received his Master’s Degree from Princeton University. LTC Gregory A. Theile, the second author, is an active duty Marine officer with over 23 years of experience including service in Iraq. It is a must read for the low-level NCO’s and officers (E5-E7, O1-O3). It is at those ranks where the battle is met on the modern battlefield. It is their decisions and actions (or inaction) which will win or lose the war. High ranking officers and NCO’s are irrelevant; when relied upon for their decisions, the battle is lost due to a slow and indecisive chain of command miles from the fight. This book attempts to solve the problems encountered in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan by changing the way members of the military think and operate. This book includes, but is not limited to the following:
· Description of the 4GW concept with an explanation of the new levels of war. (Physical, mental, and moral to go along with tactical, operational, and strategic.)
· A comparison between two leadership approaches during the Iraq War. Veterans of the Iraq War (especially those with multiple tours) will see the two scenarios and remember the success and failure of both approaches. This allows the soldier to see the fight from a different perspective.
· Changing the 2GW/3GW culture and mindset of military leaders and their subordinates. This includes understanding how technology is used to win wars at the moral level.
· Rediscovering true light infantry and their tactics complete with training schedule. Yes, we have “light” infantry in the armed forces. However, it is in name only. It is line infantry. There is a huge difference between line infantry and light infantry like the vast difference between line and mechanized infantry. The closest the Army has to a successful light infantry unit is the 75th Ranger Regiment and some scout/sniper sections. Even those units are held back by fearful leaders with defeatist attitudes.
· Additional reading to include the 4GW canon. The 4GW canon is a series of seven books “which, read in the order given, will take the reader from the First Generation through the Second, the Third, and into the Fourth”.
My first tour in 03-04 was defined by overly aggressive tactics meant to bully the locals into fearing us. This only created more locals fighting against us. We (82nd Airborne) left Iraq in March of 2004. One month later Fallujah was overtaken by insurgent fighters. I believe that our bully tactics (Operation Goliath in the 4GW Handbook) directly caused this battle. My second tour in 07-08 was defined by giving our enemy (Sons of Iraq) money to not fight us. This was the other end of the spectrum. Instead of fighting correctly, we paid them to not fight us. While violence did fall, the strategy was certainly not sustainable. it was not until my third tour that I truly lost my line infantry mindset. With one successful ambush that was a bit “outside” of our named-mission parameters, my eyes opened to the nonsensical and self-imposed rules that only one side had to follow. I had been raised to follow the book; all the answers were in the 7-8 or Ranger Handbook. Little did I know that line of thinking crippled true success in 4GW: innovation, adaptability, resiliency. You do not force the war you are fighting to fit “the book”. You change “the book” to fit the war. War changes. The book must as well.
It is interesting how leadership, who are open to the idea of changing tactics, can inspire their men from the lowest ranking private up to the senior NCO’s. My scout/sniper platoon, Tiger, experimented with different ways to approach the Afghanistan War. We got out of our vehicles as much as possible, sometimes staying for seven days out in the field at a time. We became light infantry. Tiger Platoon became the hunters. We stalked our enemy up and down main supply routes. We planned ambushes on historic IED sights and conducted what use to be called search and destroy missions. This allowed us to frustrate the enemy as we became the ghosts. We shut down IED attacks along one well trafficked route for about two months. We converted one squad to a Weapons Squad, so we could have a bit more firepower for ambushes and experimented with that as well. We were fighting partisans who fought with a couple of mags in their man dresses. Engagements were generally short and violent in my AO at that time. So, we had the machine gun teams only take out 600 rounds per gun and no tripod to make us more maneuverable and stealthy. We got some stuff wrong, but our approach was effective as we brought home confirmed enemy bodies. For about three months we brought the fight to the enemy with much success…and then higher up took away our PL. Two months later, our PSG was shot and evacuated. Our PLT wasn’t the same after those two losses. This book explains the reason my platoon felt the need for experimentation without the years of repeated failure. It should be read by every infantryman in the Army and Marine Corps no matter their rank.
The bottom line is that in current year “wars are undeclared, battlefields are everywhere, and uniforms are optional”. This is equally true in Fallujah, Iraq, Paktika Province, Afghanistan, or the Dallas, Texas streets where a Black Lives Matter 4GW operator took the lives of five police officers. Thus, this book is just as important for an active military member, police officer, or a concerned citizen to read and understand. The goal is not simply to survive the fight but bring the fight to your enemy and win. For the soldier, it does not matter if the war is just. If you are fighting right now, then that is not up to for you to decide. It only matters that the enemy is compelled to do what you want done, even if that means to simply bring your soldiers home. This book has those answers, but it is up to you to implement them appropriately. Embrace the chaos, embrace the suck, never get bogged down by rules and rank. Adapt, overcome, and win!
The book can be found on Amazon if you click on this sentence.
The book can be found on Amazon if you click on this sentence.