With all of the insanity of 2020, I think that a sufficient number of people have accepted that this frame is not only not crazy, but in fact the state of things, that we can talk openly about how such a war might be won. I am here speaking about the political “right,” since the activists for the political “left” have been aware of and acting upon everything I am going to say here for decades now. The right has some catch-up to do.
(Yes, there is a reading list at the end).
What is “4th Generation War?”
As the name implies, a “4th-Generation War” is not a conventional war. “Unconventional war” is usually thought of as synonymous with “guerilla warfare,” and indeed, guerilla tactics might sometimes be used in a 4th Generation conflict. But the term doesn’t so much describe the methods of combat so much as it describes who is fighting. Tactics follow the constraints of the battlefield, and non-state actors are — legally — far more constrained than conventional militaries.
The term “4th-Generation War” was coined by military theorist William Lind. The four generations of modern war refer to differences in strategy and tactics resulting in changes in technology and organizational structure. While the differences between the first, second, and third generations of modern warfare are largely the result of changes in direct combat technology (such as the machine gun), the fourth generation of modern war is the result of changes in communications and organizational technology. It is characterized by:
…a post-modern” return to decentralized forms of warfare, blurring of the lines between war and politics, combatants and civilians due to nation states’ loss of their near-monopoly on combat forces, returning to modes of conflict common in pre-modern times.Wikipedia
Previous generations of modern warfare were fought between state forces. But the fourth generation is characterized and dominated by non-state actors, to such a degree that even state actors seem to prefer to act indirectly, using non-state forces as proxy forces to exert their own influence.
When we look at the antics of Antifa, of lawfare organizations like the SPLC and ADL (and, increasingly, the ACLU), and the propaganda-outlets too numerous to list; when we see the other side openly advocating the creation of black-lists merely for having supported the “wrong side,” and when we see the assassinations of enemies…
…it is clear that we crossed some thin and blurry line from ordinary politics into a fourth-generation warfare, and crossed it some time back.
So — assuming this is no longer a far-fetched idea, but a clearly observable fact — how does one go about winning a fourth-generation war?
Our Fourth Generation War
One cannot hope to win a fourth-generation war without understanding the nature of fourth-generation wars generally, and the nature of one’s adversary specifically. I will include some literature that people ought to read for the purpose of the former, from authors with far more expertise on the matter than myself.
That said, I happen to have some experience myself, as it relates to combating Antifa: I was a leader in an organization which dealt directly with Antifa between late 2016 and early 2019 (and even managed to successfully mitigate their damage in some circumstances). In fact, I was writing about Antifa in my naive, younger years (circa 2013), before I even knew what they were called.
From my own experience in this sort of conflict, the most important advice, the most critical principle to understand is this:
The more steps of escalation you have, the more powerful you are.
I am not talking about having the most powerful terminus in your arsenal; having nukes is even less helpful than being totally unarmed in the context of a fourth-generation conflict. What I am talking about is having more degrees of escalation along the way.
In military and law-enforcement culture, everyone is taught about the use of force continuum. This describes the acceptable degree of force that is permitted in given circumstances. There’s a lot of rules and exceptions to rules, but the basic premise is that there is an acceptable level of force, and that responding to someone yelling at you by shooting them is not acceptable. Perhaps responding to that yelling by yelling back might be. If they are coming at you with a knife, however, than shooting them would be acceptable.
Now here’s the thing. Suppose you only have a pistol. Someone comes up and yells at you; you’re equipped to yell back. But then suppose they surround you, with maybe five or six people. They start shoving you. Someone is screaming at you through a bull-horn. Maybe someone is shining a laser-pointer in your face. You’re vaguely in fear for your safety, but the situation is ambiguous.
Can you shoot them?
The objective answer is no.
You could shoot them, but then you would become “the bad guy.”
Consider, as an illustration, the following story:
Very basic background. My friend is a prior service 1st LAR 0311, 0351. Multiple tours in the early to late 2000s, then DoE, then was put through selection and went to work for Colonel G____ as a team member. Since leaving, he has been doing contract work.
He is an experienced and capable meat eater and the furthest thing from a pussy or coward. Try to learn from his experiences.
“Me and three of my buddies were in Portland this weekend, got attacked by Antifa. There’s a Twitter video with millions of views on it. They ended up on Hannity and Tucker Carlson, Ben Shapiro etc., of us getting beaten with bats and rocks the size of cantaloupes thrown at us, getting spit on etc. We were all carrying pistols as well. Opportunity, ability and jeopardy, we were in a deadly force situation and we could easily articulate the use of deadly force, but they had pepper sprayed us. They were using industrial strobe lights on us, etc. We couldn’t PID our target and what lied beyond it, They did a great job of taking our situational awareness away, it was fucking incredible.
Bro my perspective on this changed so much.
The reason we were there wasn’t to counter protest or some shit, **** and *****, two of the guys with me, one of which is a bronze star and Purple Heart recipient. They’re both in the hiring process for the Portland Police Department. One is from Ohio and one is from Virginia. They both flew in that day just so they could come check out the city before they move their families across the nation.
Something else that I should make perfectly clear. We went to the Federal Courthouse first. There wasn’t a whole lot going on down there. We walked around and took some pictures. Bumped into a Sheriff at one point. Talked to him for a while. We asked him if the riots were over? He said fuck no, they’re trying to fuck a police station up right now on 47th and Burnside, We asked him if we could go, and he said yeah, it’s still a peaceful assembly, it hasn’t been declared a riot yet…. So, legit, we walked into this thing blind, in hindsight it was stupid on our part, I had no idea that they were like that. If it had been a full-blown riot we would not have gone. Bottom line, man, if you had ever given me a scenario like this and said hey, you’re sober, and you have a gun, and somebody is hitting you with a bat and throwing rocks at you that could kill you or put you in a coma, you try to get away but they cut you off with a convoy of vehicles and the assault starts again. They impede your movement and beat you with bats…
Would you shoot?
I’d be like, yeah what fucking planet are you from?
But in all the training that I’ve been through my life, I’ve never been in one where in the first five seconds of the scenario you’re blinded with a strobe light and sprayed with pepper spray…. That changes everything. They were throwing these rocks from 15 feet back in the crowd, you couldn’t see who the fuck through it, etc. things like that…. It’s just a good talking point for guys that carry concealed, but you need to think through all these different scenarios.
It got way worse after that video ended, they chased us for 11 city blocks. They had a convoy of about 25 vehicles that cut us off at the next intersection, They had scouts on the corner with radios, they had a drone following us, they had a bull horn calling us Nazis, and the crowd was following a red strobe light that was up in the air on a stick, so they would announce Nazis and then people would follow the red strobe light, That video is just the beginning, I’ve got a fucking fractured hand from a baton, everyone of us has black and blue bruises up and down their legs and back, I had a guy spit in my face from 6 inches away, call me a pussy and a coward for not doing anything about it, and then tell me that he was going to find where I live, rape my mother, rape my children in front of me and then kill me.
I’ve never been more angry about something in my fucking life, the level of restraint that it took for us to not fight back in any capacity whether that was with a gun or fists is incredible. All of us have kids at home. The only thing going through all of our minds was we have to be able to justify deadly force if we’re going to go that route, there’s also hundreds of these people, we can’t see straight because of all the pepper spray, and it’s hard to PID exactly who is throwing these rocks and hitting us with batons, because they would hit you and fucking run and their buddy would run up and hit you. It was an incredibly stressful situation, they did a very good job tactically of taking away your situational awareness, and in my opinion complicating your legal defense when you split one of their faces open with a hollow point.
As we were running from the crowd after about the third block or so, we’re sprinting because the mob head caught back up to us and vehicles were trying to cut us off, I put my hand on the back strap on my appendix, And I heard somebody yell “Hey bro, whatever you’re reaching for, don’t reach, just keep running, they’re still 30 feet behind you. Keep running straight.”
We get 11 blocks down the road and this black Chevy Impala is ghosting us down the street, he’s kind of been in our shadow since block two or three He rolls his window down and starts asking us a bunch of questions. Why are we here, what are we doing, telling us we need to get the fuck out of here, asking us where our car is etc., we pretty much told him to get the fuck away from us because we didn’t know who he was. I finally asked him at one point, Who the fuck are you, man, you need to leave us alone, and he was like I’m the fucking police, bro, who are you? So he pulled his car over and he and his partner talked to us. He was one of the special programs guys, either with SWAT or SRT or whatever. He was the one that yelled at me not to reach, and tried to help us out. He said he knew that we’ve been pepper sprayed and we’re having trouble seeing, I kind of snapped at him, Like hey motherfucker, You’ve been watching this whole thing fucking unfold and you didn’t intervene at all or light the crowd up or something? He started laughing and he was like, Man, if I got out and tried to help you guys, my fucking car would be on fire right now, and I’d be running next to you.
Bottom line: don’t go to an Antifa protest where you can put yourself in that situation. And if you find yourself in that situation, expect them to employ tactics that take away your situational awareness, and complicate the use of force continuum.
Seems pretty… planned-out, perhaps even “professional,” for a mere “protest” or a “riot,” no? The ability and intent to completely overwhelm and incapacitate perceived enemies — even actual warriors — clearly indicates an intent other than the peaceful expression of political dissatisfaction or anything else that might be construed as protected speech under the first amendment.
How else would one understand such an incredible exertion of precisely modulated force outside of the context of war?
Fourth Generation Warfare hinges upon what Sun-Tzu called “the moral law.” The moral law is not “morality” as philosophers would talk about it, but rather the public opinion about who is in the right. According to Sun-Tzu, the moral law “causes the people to be in complete accord with their ruler, so that they will follow him regardless of their lives, undismayed by any danger.” It is known by its effects, not by an understanding of what morality actually is in the abstract sense.
In America, in the West, and perhaps in the whole world, the aggressor always is seen as the violator of the moral law. Much of the propaganda war waged by the left is a grand attempt to define all left-wing violence as “self-defense” for exactly this reason, even when it is clearly and obviously not (this obviousness is perhaps their greatest weakness; everybody besides Antifa hates Antifa for this reason). But if you are aggressed against in a moderate manner (say, yelling), and if you escalate beyond what is thought of as appropriate, you become the aggressor in the eyes of the public. You become the violator of the moral law, and hurt your cause in the course of a Fourth Generation War.
Had that Marine Recon soldier shot those Antifa members mobbing him and his friends, he would have been perceived as the bad guy, not them.
This means that whoever has the finer degree of escalation in their arsenal has the most power.
Think of it as a game where discomfort is the lever by which you exert power and force your will on the other side. Discomfort is measured on a scale of 1-10, a scale which happens to coincide with the use of force continuum. But you aren’t allowed to escalate beyond what seems reasonable (let’s call it 1 point). So if someone escalates from a 1 to a 2, from presence to yelling, and you go straight to 10 by pulling out your gun and shooting, you lose. Actually, your whole side loses.
So you yell back, knowing that you’re safe because you have your G17 in your waistband.
But then they escalate to a 3: they walk up to you, maybe bump into you, still yelling. Perhaps they spit on your shoe.
This is now battery. Can you shoot?
What do you have between yelling back and shooting?
If the answer is “nothing,” then you are practically and legally defenseless.
Once it is admitted that we are in a Fourth Generation conflict (which is 50% of the challenge), then how to fight it becomes very obvious: you must diversify the degrees of escalation in your arsenal.
A very minor personal example: in my personal vehicle, I very often carry a firearm. But more importantly, I carry pepper spray and a three-foot stick of 3/4″ EMT (steel pipe). Neither of these implements constitute lethal force, but both are capable of exerting serious pain below that lethal threshold. The pepper spray provides an escalation-point between yelling and striking, and the EMT provides an escalation-point beyond striking with hands that does not rise up to a knife or gun.
It is essential to understand the many dimensions on this battlefield. Not everything is a matter of physical confrontation: in fact, most are informational. Some of the most devastating attacks and most frustrating defenses are organizational and informational in nature. At Antifa rallies, the most potent warriors in the Left’s arsenal look like harmless observers, usually seen walking around with green hats and clipboards.
These are agents of the “National Lawyer’s Guild,” a left-wing activist group whose history and politics are neatly summarized on their website:
The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) was founded in 1937 as an association of progressive lawyers and jurists who believed that they had a major role to play in the reconstruction of legal values to emphasize human rights over property rights.
They proudly defended Soviet Spies in the 1950s, and continue to carry on in attempting to undermine — or “reconstruct” — America’s legal system today.
But the value of these green-hat “legal observers” is best understood in the context of a Fourth Generation War: they observe and record in order to collect information that can be used in a legal context, either to exculpate people on their own side, or to prosecute those on the other side. They exist as an institution designed to give their own side ammunition and cover.
They are a phenomenal example of the power that escalation in the use of force can have, while still remaining within the boundaries of law and the reasonable confines of propriety in the escalation of force.
There is no limit to how creative one can get in these plans of escalating discomfort. Saul Alinsky, a left-wing political activist from the 1960s and 1970s, once organized a maneuver in which dozens of activists ate cans of beans to induce horrific flatulence before doing a sit-in protest in a movie theater.
How could you enjoy a movie, or ignore political protests and otherwise go about your life, in the face of malicious and organized farting?
What kind of law is there against that?
How would one even begin to fight back against that?
You’d better start to think about it.
For the purpose of understanding the Fourth Generation War we are in, here are a number of books that will help people catch-up to the present (if what is going on today is baffling or confusing to you, you are probably in need of catching up):
1. 4th Generation Warfare Handbook by William S Lind and LtCol Gregory Thiele
This book explains what Fourth Generation Warfare is from some of the best military theorists alive. It’s value is pretty straightforward, and should be essential reading. There really isn’t much else to say.
(Unless you want to get real crazy and read up on “fifth-generation warfare.”)
2. Rules for Radicals by Saul Alinsky
This book isn’t just an example of fairly low-level Fourth Generation War tactics brilliantly put into action (low-level here meaning “they aren’t killing people”). It is also a demonstration that the mindset of Fourth Generation Warfare has been there in the left for decades, perhaps even approaching a century. Their resulting gains across that period, in changing both our culture and our laws, demonstrate the success of that approach.
3. Skin in the Game by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
This book has a special place in this list because it makes the mathematical argument which overcomes the intuition that holds back many conservatives from taking the war-frame seriously: how can so few radical leftists really dominate society to the point that they are literally waging war? Let me include a small excerpt from the most relevant chapter, which can be found in full here:
The best example I know that gives insights into the functioning of a complex system is with the following situation. It suffices for an intransigent minority –a certain type of intransigent minorities –to reach a minutely small level, say three or four percent of the total population, for the entire population to have to submit to their preferences. Further, an optical illusion comes with the dominance of the minority: a naive observer would be under the impression that the choices and preferences are those of the majority. If it seems absurd, it is because our scientific intuitions aren’t calibrated for that (fughedabout scientific and academic intuitions and snap judgments; they don’t work and your standard intellectualization fails with complex systems, though not your grandmothers’ wisdom).
The main idea behind complex systems is that the ensemble behaves in way not predicted by the components. The interactions matter more than the nature of the units. Studying individual ants will never (one can safely say never for most such situations), never give us an idea on how the ant colony operates. For that, one needs to understand an ant colony as an ant colony, no less, no more, not a collection of ants. This is called an “emergent” property of the whole, by which parts and whole differ because what matters is the interactions between such parts. And interactions can obey very simple rules. The rule we discuss in this chapter is the minority rule.
The minority rule will show us how it all it takes is a small number of intolerant virtuous people with skin in the game, in the form of courage, for society to function properly.
A small minority can exert its will on an entire nation, if it is sufficiently intolerant, and if the majority is — or can be induced to be — asymmetrically tolerant of the minority.
Asymmetries in power — including asymmetries in permitted tactics — are what give progressives leverage. And it is the right-wing reticence to respond-in-kind — the proverbial “eye for an eye” — that has given the left such a strong advantage in this culture war, and the likely long-term victory in the struggle for the soul of America. Conservatives view doxxing as “immoral,” which it often is, but they fail to understand that the immorality is not in the method itself, but in the escalation beyond the appearance of propriety. It may be immoral to dox someone just because they disagree with you. But doxxing in response to being doxxed yourself… how is that any less moral than firing back after being fired upon?
4. SJWs Always Lie by Vox Day
Aside from accurately describing the nature of the adversarial Left, Vox Day himself is a first-rate example of what a successful response to left-wing activists can look like. If you have heard about the recent lawsuit against Patreon, Vox Day is why that’s happening.
(Day’s publishing operation, Castalia House, is also the publisher of Lind and Thiele’s handbook)
SJWs Always Lie might not be the most important book Day has written related to fighting and winning a Fourth Generation War (Cuckservative probably holds that honor), but it is an excellent and necessary introduction; perhaps the one you have to read for the rest to make sense.
5. Becoming a Barbarian by Jack Donovan
This book is the best distillation of the “moral gear-shift” that has to happen if the right is to have a hope of ever fighting back against the Fourth Generation War being waged by the left in America. This largely has to do with an unskeptical universalization of morality as it is thought of in the West. We have a duty to be honest, for instance; but does this obligation extend to our enemies as well, even if Sun Tzu says that all warfare is based in deception? Would that mean we are morally prohibited from winning a war?
Most people can understand the importance of localizing their morality at an abstract level, but then default back to the universalized standards that were not just acceptable, but downright pleasant in the peaceful suburbs they grew up in. Becoming a Barbarian does an excellent job of laying out exactly what accepting the moral gear-shift looks like in application: always remembering where your loyalties lie, and protecting your heart from getting emotionally hijacked by strangers who — in reality — don’t actually care about you.
All of these books will have their own takeaways relating to the “culture-war,” which is really a euphemistic name for the Fourth Generation war going on in America. But they also provide inspiration for tools your can include to your arsenal, adding more precise levels of escalation in your use-of-force continuum, which will give you more power.
It should be noted that power from this continuum alone is not enough to win a Fourth Generation war. As with any war, superior strategy with inferior technology can often beat superior technology organized by an inferior strategy. In a sense, one can think of Fourth Generation warfare as a more pure distillation of raw strategy, relative to regular warfare. A single satirical cartoon; a single egg thrown at a car; a single instance of harassing someone’s children at school, would each be cause for concern on their own. But their strength as Fourth Generation warfare tactics would lie in their ability to be executed at scale, en masse, perhaps over some extended period of time, with the appropriate networking, coordination, logistical distribution, public framing, and media presentation. Most of the tactics themselves are technologically simple and financially cheap. Relative to an F-35, what is the cost of bussing a bunch of drug-addled homeless people to a rich neighborhood after promising them that the unwitting inhabitants of said neighborhood would give them rooms?
(For the record, I am not advocating these measures, but describing in hypothetical terms categories of actions which left-wing activists have, in many cases, already done).
But the importance of strategic coordination notwithstanding, I think that understanding the nature of the Use of Force Continuum in relation to Fourth Generation warfare is still critical if one ever hopes to win such a conflict. And if the four years of coordinated lying, violent rioting, deceptive cover for said violent rioting, gaslighting, and general vindictive cultural warfare against conservatives which has characterized America under Trump — if all of that hasn’t convinced you of the need for such knowledge, I’m not sure what will.