Skilluminati Research

5GWTF: The Post-Everything Future of War

Posted Jul 22, 2012 5 comments


On the auspicious date of August 17th, 2011, Barack Obama was looking ahead. Faced with the recent actions of Anders Brievik and contemplating the immanent 10th anniversary of the 9-11 attacks, he stated: “The biggest concern we have right now is not the launching of a major terror operation, although that risk is always there. The risk we are especially worried about right now is the lone wolf terrorist. Somebody with a single weapon being able to carry out wide scale massacres of the sort we saw in Norway.” The fact he was in a television studio speaking those lines to a man named Wolf Blitzer is just one of those coincidences that permeate our associative universe.


"Fifth Generation Warfare" is not catchy. Consumers need something relatable, something visual and visceral. That's why “5GW” has devolved from the critical theory of the warrior class into the crude shock and awe of "Lone Wolf" domestic terrorism. The dumbing down process is irreversible and immune to reason, so this isn’t written as a defense of the concept so much as a post-mortem for the field.

There have been a number of noble but aborted attempts in recent years to establish a center of gravity for this subject, the slickest and most recent being the 5GW Educational Institute, who have been pretty quiet since their initial PR campaign in 2010. They are patterned after the earnest template of the Project for a New American Century, an academic noise machine raising awareness about future threats to national security. Witness "Fifth Generation Warfare: A Growing Concept" by consultant Stephen "Awkward Titles" Bucci. It's mostly the kind of boilerplate copy that any IO intern could hand you before breakfast, but here's where things get downright quotable:

"...the United States is at a moment of transitioning from traditional and separated disciplines in the national security space to the world of highly integrated, multifaceted and sophisticated 5GW. Our enemies have figured this out already. They are agile, innovative and will try whatever works. We tend to still have an industrial-age methodology. We preach agility, net-centric operations and a legion of other buzz words, but then return to our comfortable traditional corners."


I think that "our enemies" are being given far too much credit, as usual. Besides, in the generational warfare model, "agile and innovative" is a 4GW fundamental already. Operationally, it's a euphemism for banal atrocities like "hiding behind Islamic clerics and charities to facilitate IED training networks" or "using drug money to finance the murder of political opponents and honest law enforcement" or "funding arms purchases by forcing women into prostitution." That's just run of mill, Carlos the Jackal, everyday terrorism, dumbass simple and lower case t. Sure, they have special ops training thanks to SOA legacy programs and they build their own parallel IT networks for secure communication, but so did the IRA. Ideally, words and concepts communicate a precise, repeatable meaning. 5GW is more subtle and sophisticated than 4GW, a perpetually embedded insider threat, and Zetas using GPS phone apps to kill a target in Texas doesn't qualify. That's organized crime and it's older than English.

In the real world of informed adults, nobody is touching the United States of America in terms of force projection. However, Full Spectrum Dominance is the most capital intensive activity on Earth and requires continuously escalated funding. So with “Cyberwar” getting a bored response from the body politic, we've got some product testing underway in 2012 and the “Lone Wolf” angle is a promising pitch.

Which is not to say the concept is something new: it predates Lee Harvey Oswald and James Earl Ray, tracing back to a mostly forgotten man named Andrew Kehoe. He was a Michigan native and local school board treasurer, a perfectly unremarkable man who killed 44 people on the morning of May 18th, 1927.


There is seldom much value in the details of crimes like these, but what Andrew Kehoe did deserves scrutiny just the same. Like many spree killing incidents, it began with a domestic homicide when Kehoe woke up, killed his wife, and set fire to every building on his failing farm. This was not a psychotic break, but the beginning of a meticulous plan that hinged upon predicting the response of authorities and maximizing damage and fear. When the fire department and police responded to the housefires, Kehoe was detonating over six hundred pounds of explosives somewhere else. He had spent months slowly wiring inside the walls of nearly every room in the Bath Township elementary school, which was just starting their first classes of the day.

Fortunately, Kehoe was not an meticulous enough and the majority of the charges never went off. Despite that, the explosion killed dozens of children and teachers. In the aftermath, Kehoe drove his truck back to the scene and detonated the entire vehicle, which he had built into a massive shrapnel bomb. The next day, investigators pulling unused explosives and dead animals from the wreckage of Kehoe’s farm found a stenciled message on the perimeter fence: “CRIMINALS ARE MADE, NOT BORN.” All this ten years prior to television sets becoming commercially available in the United States.

After the fires of Andrew Kehoe were finally out, the town of Bath demanded a grand jury inquisition to determine who was at fault. They concluded that “Kehoe conducted himself sanely and so concealed his operations that there was no cause to suspect any of his actions.”


The man in the cage is Leon Czolgosz, who assassinated president William McKinley in 1901. He was a self-proclaimed Anarchist, as they often are. It was already the third time that America’s elected leader had been killed with a firearm, and Czolgosz himself was merely a copycat, imitating the world famous crime of Gaetano Bresci. In 1898, New Jersey activist Bresci vowed to kill the king of Italy in retaliation for the Bava-Beccaris Massacre, an Italian strike turned shooting gallery which killed over 100 civlians, mostly activists and union organizers.

Two years later, he looked directly into the mighty moustache of Umberto I and shot him 5 times in the chest, standing in the middle of a beautiful summer day in the Italian city of Monza. One year later, William McKinley was murdered in the Temple of Music by man he never knew. Leon Czolgosz was just another face in the crowd.

Nobody saw him coming. As usual.


As ad copy for enhanced security goes, the "Lone Wolf" argument is compelling and concise. “There’s no way you can prevent it. There’s absolutely no way. It was random. It happened. There was nothing that could have prevented that unless someone saw him loading his car with guns.” That's Peter Ahearn, retired FBI agent (and more), diagnosing the recent incident in Aurora.

Of course, "there's absolutely no way" is not an answer consumers want to hear. That void will be filled, in strange but predictable ways. Civil society is a very thin veneer, and although Bruce Schneier is factually right about the "Security Theater" of DHS checkpoint theory, those systems aren't exactly there because they work or something. It's what the consumers wanted. Impulse purchases can usually be returned, but impulse legislation is far harder to deal with.


"Lone Wolf" is something pundits can really tear into. It's already been through the online content cycle long enough to get critiqued by Stratfor: "Cutting Through the Lone Wolf Hype" takes two approaches, dismissing the perpetrators as "stray mutts" and insisting that truly dangerous individual operators are quite rare, in terms of the larger domesticated population. Both points are mostly true.

Throughout the strange history of single perpetrator mass killings, one pattern that emerges is how often their simple mistakes can save lives at every turn. Nearly a century after the incident at Bath School, potential Lone Wolf types have a new asset: a media driven learning environment. Monsters or not, these murderers are celebrities now and their actions are analyzed in careful infographic detail.

As Peter Drucker teaches: ”What gets measured gets done.”


If an angry young man with an AR-15 and a tactical vest qualifies as a “Super-Empowered Individual,” then the phrase means nothing at all. Mass shootings are horrifying precisely because they are so easy, basically only requiring a functional credit card and an empty soul. The perpetrators themselves are bland emotional cripples, yet their poodle complaints are elevated to the status of breaking news.

The Terrorism Research Initiative did a recent essay on “Preventing Lone Wolf Terrorism” and part of their conclusion is worth quoting here:

”...exactly because lone wolves – although operating alone – draw inspiration from other extremists or ideologues, disseminating counter narratives ought to be an important element of an effective CT strategy. A crucial ingredient of counter narratives is the de-legitimisation of perpetrators and their acts and the falsification of their is important to refrain from handing them the public theatre they strive for. ”


Park Dietz: “We’ve had twenty years of mass murders throughout which I have repeatedly told CNN and our other media: If you don’t want to propagate more mass murders, don’t start the story with sirens blaring. Don’t have photographs of the killer. Don’t make this 24/7 coverage. Do everything you can to not make the body count the lead story, not to make the killer some kind of anti-hero. Do localize the story to the affected community and make it as boring as possible in every other market. Because every time we have intense saturation coverage of a mass murder, we expect to see one or two more within a week.”


What makes 5GW interesting isn’t the democratization of violence and spectacle, because again, that’s just basic terrorism. There’s not much to analyze in terms of a gas-powered automatic weapon in a crowded room full of unarmed people. 5GW is not about the ability of individual actors to kill civilians or even hit hardened targets, it’s about the ability of individual actors to challenge institutions and nations.

The growing asymmetry of power that converging technologies provide is what distinguishes the open horizons of 5GW from the closed abbatoir loops of 4GW. When Liang & Xiangsui wrote about “Unrestricted Warfare,” they didn’t have a bunch of Woo Bum-Kon impersonators in mind, they were outlining a method of leveraging systems and processes against themselves, a means of enacting sabotage invisibly and continuously.


What about the real deal SEIs? They're mostly the subject of internet conspiracy theories, appropriately enough. George Soros, John Rockefeller, Jr. and the Brothers Koch are all boogeymen to someone, but the bigger picture is a global ecosystem of billionaire operatives pursuing both overlapping and contradictory goals. There are thousands and thousands of them. Most of them are completely gone on some terminal ego trip and barely in touch with the world they want to remake in their image.

Focusing on individual perpetrators can only become overwhelming, so take some advice from Barbara Bush and don't trouble your beautiful mind about The 1%. Instead, take the John Nash approach -- the real John Nash, pathologically obsessed with game theory and iterations of the Prisoner's Dilemma. This "Lone Wolf" stuff might be watered down, but it's still bitter and strong. There are no deliverable solutions and no technological fixes.

That bleak conclusion is exactly where 5GW should logically begin.

Filed in: 5GW Project

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  • 1. Eric on Jul 23, 2012 at 8:15 AM permalink

    “Sure, they have special ops training thanks to SOA legacy programs and they build their own parallel IT networks for secure communication, but so did the IRA.”

    Osama’s stuff actually wasn’t encrypted, there’s a long list of Islamic insurgents who have gotten all of their stuff seized because they didn’t use encryption, or used a custom cypher, under the belief that an infidel cypher would be easier to crack. Check ‘em:

    The narcos are much more sophisticated though. But they really just a business that uses terrorism to enforce a barrier to entry.

    Fighting this kind of domestic terrorism requires the ability to integrate people back into society. This James Holmes guy was a Ph.D. candidate, most likely working like a slave, living on the tiny stipend they give to candidates and working a job at McDonalds on the side (in his work history). It’s a pressure cooker environment, and his degree may of not of been that valuable in the job market.

    Over in the UK a former militant who turned into an MMA cagefighter has had a lot of good results in reforming militants by teaching them basic fighting skills, I’ve seen it previously from Robert Humphrey as well. The political goals of terrorist groups can be mercurial, people can move from one end of the spectrum to the other very quickly (though the sample set is somewhat corrupted because of Gladio type events). The problem of terrorism isn’t political most of the time and can’t be fixed with political concessions, it’s a social and economic barometer.

  • 2. Eric on Jul 23, 2012 at 8:15 AM permalink

    Also, I think most of the Islamic fighters that had US training are dead by now. There were some heated battles early on, very high attrition rate. We’ve killed a lot of people in Iraq and Afghanistan. Most of the money/training is likely coming from the Saudi’s, the ISI (who were protecting Osama) with some support from Iran (Wouldn’t you do the same if a large hostile force were encircling you with military bases in your own backyard?).

    EOD guys in Iraq noted that the bombs became more amateurish over time as we captured or killed bomb makers. The Israeli’s noted long ago that giving organizations free publicity is a really bad idea. Even the “terror alerts” that are color coded are a bad idea.

    Lots of guys have taken successful approaches to countering psuedo-4GW,
    see this post by an operator:

    See this also:

    “To control an area the Taliban will identify villages that can be most easily subverted. They will then spread to other villages in the area one at a time, focusing their efforts on whichever node of influence seem most likely to support their effort first. Using this model the Taliban could influence and dominate or control a valley or area with a population of 1000-2500 — of ten villages with 100-250 people (100-250 compounds) — with only between 20-50 active fighters and ten fighting leaders. The actual numbers may be more population and fewer fighters.”

    I’m obsessed with details, so I just want to cover all of the bases here.

    All of the guys in government, particularly the Federal government, operate in a perverse incentive system and they tend to be very far behind the curve. They get bigger budgets, promotions and pay raises when they bust “bad guys”. Of course most people trust technology firms like Google now more than their own government, apathy is the norm.

    The local government can be swayed heavily in the favor of resilient communities, you can stack local politicians and law enforcement in favor of the community giving you de-facto control. Governors generally have more power than the Federal government anyway. If you have social cohesion, if you beat the consumer apathy, you will have a strong voting block. Most of the lone wolf types are drawn from social rejects that have a hard time integrating into society, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

  • 3. Eric on Jul 23, 2012 at 11:04 AM permalink

    I remember Breivik actually started crying when they played his propaganda video, people all over the world got to see it live. I watched the a lot of the early trial live myself.

    BTW, if you’re still going to purchase an AKM variant, I would recommend getting one of the newer ones. They are lighter and all around better.

    The AR-15 models are used quite often in shootings because you can reload quickly with one hand while keeping your weapon pointed toward the target (mag release and bolt requires 2 hands for most shooters), they are half the weight or less versus an AK model (depending on the barrel, even more), and the .223 has less recoil versus the 7.62, it makes it perfect for close quarters battles. The AK models are simpler to learn though, I suspect the only reason it’s crazy widespread is because soldiers also use it.

    Watch how fast they can be reloaded in comparison:

    Skinny kid speed reloading and keeping the rifle on target:

  • 4. yayo trapper on Jul 24, 2012 at 6:37 PM permalink

    After the Aurora incident, it came as no surprise that some of the first words from the jabbering scarecrows were “gun control”.  The irony of the situation being that this guy was sqeaky-clean by back-ground check standards. So maybe it isn’t so ironic. Maybe that is the perfect excuse to ratchet up the law another notch or two. The jabberjockies seem to be incredulous that it is so difficult to have a national conversation about gun control, blaming the NRA. I find it incredulous that they are still trying to have such a conversation. They just don’t get it, or maybe they do, who knows? I don’t care if they do or don’t. I don’t think people are as stupid as some may think they are. Sure we are swayed with TV dramas and mesmerized by i-phone apps, but at the end of the day I know there are still a significant number, perhaps even a majority of citizens, who think of a successful gun control policy as: “prying it out of my cold dead hands.” Ftds.

  • 5. Eric on Jul 25, 2012 at 11:44 AM permalink

    You know, the reality of the situation is that it is going to get a lot weirder than just trying to manage rifles and pistols.

    To develop the technology to defeat the rifle utterly in the field is roughly equivalent to absolute, final, global disarmament of the population. - Vinay Gupta

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