“A state of war only serves as an excuse for domestic tyranny.”
There is a very popular video game franchise that prominently features the tag-line, “war… war never changes.” If you are a purveyor or consumer of this particular type of digital entertainment, then you may already be aware of this property, and potentially had this phrase playing back in your own mind to the exact tone and tenor that these games always employ to greet you upon loading. This effect could be a result of NLP, but that is a discussion for another time.
As a child, I was fascinated by war; as I imagine the majority of male Americans growing up during the latter half of the 20th century were. I would marvel at the incredibly complex machines that were specifically designed to reign down all kinds of unimaginable hell upon their enemy. A randomly encountered documentary about one of the Great Wars of the 20th century, or even one of the lesser ones, would never fail to capture my attention and hold it until the credits began to stream their way up the screen. And if the footage being presented was in black & white, all the better. These images, as well as copious amounts of time invested into the tactical maneuvers of 4-inch G.I.JOE action figures and their accompanying hardware, helped form the image in my young mind of what the visual representation of war is supposed to look like.
In the interest of full disclosure, I should probably note that I have never served in any capacity in any armed force, official or otherwise(judge that however you please). My father served in the U.S. Army; but he never saw battle, and rarely talked about his experiences. I have been told that my grandfather served, but I’m fuzzy on the details. He died literally right after I was born, so I was never afforded the opportunity to pick his brain about this or any other subject. I have enjoyed many friendships over the course of my life with people that had the calling to serve, comprising representatives of all the branches of the military. And all of them brought something unique to my experience, regardless of their service.
One thing that I have been able to conclude from the vast amounts of information that I personally have absorbed on this subject is that the creators of that video game franchise with the memorable tag-line are dead wrong. War does change. Not so much in the effects that it generates, but in the forms and functions that it embodies to achieve those effects. When I was eight-years-old, war looked like shiny little plastic army men and black & white jet airplanes landing and taking off from carriers; groups of rough looking men decked out in olive drab, taking a rest to smoke some cigarettes and wipe the sweat and dirt from their faces; the jubilant celebrations of the troops returning home from the front (because, you know, we always won because we were always the good guys). For better or worse, these images now apply only to nostalgia.
What Does War Look Like?
If you have ever been in the proximity of armed conflict, then you already know. It is not necessary to have pledged allegiance to any cause or organized military institution. War does not discriminate between soldiers and civilians; it is an equal-opportunity dominator. The barely armed provide as much fodder for the grinding mill of war as the well armed. This is a lesson that we, as a society, as a species, have been taught time and time again; apparently derelict in our attention to learn it. But if the shape and the appearance of war is in constant flux, at what point does it become unrecognizable to the ordinary individual? And is it possible that it’s image could become blurred enough that it would be indistinguishable from the mundanity of what we accept as everyday life? In other words, if you were in the midst of war today, would you even know it?
It has become fashionable to define the characteristics of war in the style of a generational progression, similar to how the parasites of the Davos crowd would like to characterize the progress of human technological ingenuity. Since that is the framework we have to work with, it helps to understand how each generation is defined:
⦁ 0 Gen. — literally sticks & stones
⦁ 1st Gen. — more advanced bladed, blunt, and projectile weapon technology; basic strategy & tactics (i.e. let’s form a line and charge, overwhelm the enemy with sheer power and numbers)
⦁ 2nd Gen. — the introduction of gunpowder and rifling; strategy & tactics evolve based upon gaining superiority by engaging the enemy at distance
⦁ 3rd Gen. — mechanized weaponry(tanks, planes, warships); strategy & tactics evolve to identify weak points of the enemy that can be exploited to advantage with the least amount of effort
Believe it or don’t, this is the general history of war among the human species from the beginning of history as we believe know it until the 21st century. Obviously, I’m severely over-generalizing here, but I think you get the point. However, these previous generations did not suddenly evaporate when the clock struck midnight on January 1, 2000(or whatever year the century began). War is big business, after all, and it needs to be able to keep up with the times.
The attacks on New York City and Washington D.C. in September of 2001 can be used as a rough demarcation line between the 3rd and 4th generations of warfare. It’s as good a spot as any. The image of war was already readjusting well before these events occurred, but this is what brought the evolving generation of strategy, tactics, and weaponry into the overall public consciousness, though the public likely wasn’t paying much attention. 4th generational warfare is primarily defined by the decentralized nature of the command structure of the enemy and “asymmetrical” tactics, where formal combat methodology is eschewed in favor of guerilla tactics and deliberate obfuscation of any singularly identifiable nation-state, cause, or institution. Al-Qaeda and ISIS would be the two most accessible examples of this type of enemy, as the concepts associated with this generation of warfare presuppose(emphasis mine) that non-state actors are in reality proxies for antagonistic nation states. This effectively blurs the lines between combatants and civilians in the theatre of conflict(making “collateral damage” unavoidable).
3rd generational warfare, while still relying heavily on brute force, introduced the opportunity for strategies and tactics to expand beyond the constraints of previous generations. A more efficient victory could be achieved through diplomatic, information, military, and economic means; and not necessarily in that order. The transition to the 4th generation would necessitate five more categories of offensive action that could be utilized to achieve victory over an enemy determined to be as invisible as possible: financial, intelligence, law enforcement, cultural, and humanitarian. These nine differing points of focus, when taken all together, is commonly referred to as “full spectrum dominance.”
This is the space the general public is expected to believe that current operational philosophy occupies. While this may be true for the ordinary G.I., or alleged ideological terrorist, the face of war continues to change.
5th Generational Warfare(5GW)
At the time that the public was becoming aware of the 4th generational model, the command and control apparatus of the U.S. military was already hard at work on what they believed the next evolution of military operations would bring. Oddly enough, the definitions that would be appropriated to form the basis of this new generational paradigm would be supplied most efficiently by a blogger that adopted the handle Purple Slog(go figure). Mr./Mrs./Mx. Slog defined 5GW as:
“The secret deliberative manipulation of actors, networks, institutions, states or any forces to achieve a goal or set of goals across a combination of socioeconomic and political domains while attempting to avoid or minimize the retaliatory offensive or defensive actions/reactions of 2GW, 3GW, 4GW powered actors, networks, institutions, and/or states.”
Boy, that’s a mouthful. Plainly defined, 5GW is a battle of perceptions and information(previously designated as Information Warfare). The violence that is directed by 5GW is subtle if not outright unnoticeable, and the intended victim is often unaware that they are being targeted. This allows for the operational substance of active warfare to hide in the background, essentially camouflaging itself with the noise of everyday events. According to Daniel Abbott, who assisted in devising some of the theoretical mechanics of this new generation of warfare, “the most successful 5GW [campaigns] are never identified.”
5GW can be most clearly defined as a cultural and/or moral conflict, because at its most effective, it “distorts the perception of the masses to give a manipulated view of the world and politics.” And being that military institutions rarely associate themselves with either cultural or moral trends in society, 5GW allows for the exploitation of cultural icons(like movie stars, talk show hosts, or internet influencers) as well as other religious sentiments. Why? The most obvious answer is because the information presented will likely be viewed as originating with these public puppets instead of the actual source itself. Therefore, if “blowback” from the public does occur(which is always a possibility when you are deliberately messing with people’s minds), the puppet ends up subject to the full force of the public backlash while the war-makers can continue their work unmolested.
Under this new paradigm, information itself is the weapon of choice. Deception and propaganda, backed by identity construction and misperception created by mis/disinformation, are employed to mold public perception into ordinance that can then be directed at the chosen target. The forcible coercion that is necessary with 2GW, 3GW, and even 4GW is excluded in favor of influence. This strategy turns ordinary people into insurgents that can be turned against their own governments with nothing more than propaganda and misinformation. And maybe some conveniently located pallets of bricks delivered prior to the lighting of the metaphorical powder keg. In a paper published in 2019, Dr. Waseem Ahmad Qureshi summarized this concept:
“This tactic creates leaderless resilience comprised of a phantom cell structure without any headquarters or hierarchical order; wherein people within the movement have the same general outlook, the same philosophy, and where they react similarly and target perceived tyrannical state governments.”
Now, I know what you’re thinking: that sounds exactly like Antifa! But remember, Joe Biden told us Antifa is just an idea. Nothing to worry about there. Syria, Yemen, and Ukraine, however, are very real; as are the operations that were conducted to overthrow their governments.
Information is a tool. I think you would be hard pressed to find anyone in 2022 that would argue against that statement. How you choose to wield any particular tool will ultimately determine its efficiency, because every tool can also be a weapon. You can use a hammer to build something of incredible beauty and value. Conversely, you can also use that same hammer to destroy the same structure you just built.
As these new concepts of 4GW and 5GW were being developed in command structures and think tanks, the RAND Corporation published preliminary research conducted to assist in fleshing out how these new methodologies could be applied and improved upon. In 1996, after completing several exercises, the “big brains” at RAND came to the realization that successful implementation of information warfare strategy would inevitably result in the public perception of an erosion of civil liberties for the general populace… and that this was a problem that would need to be addressed before the public became aware of it.
This allowed for the strategies and tactics being developed to extend beyond the boundaries of a purely military application. After all, if the public were to suddenly realize that they were the target of a sophisticated psychological operation directed toward a predetermined outcome, it would be highly unlikely that the ordinary citizens of any nation would view their own unwitting manipulation in a favorable manner. Would you?
Whether implicitly stated or not, private corporations also have the ability to conduct information warfare though a variety of mechanisms; including, but not limited to, marketing. This did not escape the attention of researchers assisting the military. In 2017, the article by Gery et al. Information Warfare in the Information Age, published by the National Defense University Press, stated:
“Big data concepts used in business could be advantageous and used in information warfare. It is possible that data-mining and subsequently an information advantage could achieve objectives purely through information warfare alone.”
The implication here is that private companies had already figured out that possessing more data than the target you are attempting to influence yields a strategic advantage(especially when the target is unaware that they are the target), and were actively employing this strategy to their advantage against consumers. In other words, the best and brightest military minds discovered they could stand to learn a thing or two from Facebook.
Author Brian Nichiporuk expands on this in his piece titled U.S. Military Opportunities:
“The goals of an offensive information warfare campaign are to deny, corrupt, degrade or destroy the enemy’s sources of information on the battlefield. Doing so successfully, while maintaining the operational security of your own information sources, is the key to achieving ‘information superiority’ — that is, the ability to see the battlefield while your opponent cannot.”
In traditional military vernacular, this is known as the “fog of war.” What Nichiporuk seems to be implying is that — theoretically — information warfare supremacy allows for the direct control of the opponent’s fog of war, and thereby manipulation of their perception of the battlefield itself.
Further, from the Defense Science Board publication Report on Psychological Operations:
“Information and it’s denial is power. The state orentity(emphasis mine) most able to effectively control or manage information, especially managing the perceptions of particular target audiences, will be the most influential.”
In the upside-down world of 2022, it would be difficult to argue against the mainstream media being viewed as the gatekeepers of public information dissemination. This would also include the powerhouse tech companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter, and their subordinates. In my mind, a situation such as this would necessitate the question that, if information denial is equally as powerful as information acquisition, what would be the motivations behind denying the public access to some bits of information and not others? And most especially when the “greater good” of the public is at stake?
In an excellently constructed essay from 2001, author Michael Parenti breaks down the most widely utilized techniques employed by the media to “manufacture consent” from the public. In Parenti’s own words:
“Many things are reported in the news but few are explained. Little is said about how the social order is organized and for what purposes. Instead we are left to see the world as do mainstream pundits, as a scatter of events and personalities propelled by happenstance, circumstance, confused intentions, bungled operations, and individual ambition — rarely by powerful class interests.”
If we momentarily suspend our own belief or disbelief about whether or not the job of the media is to inform the public, then is it really so shocking to conclude that the ordinary individual would view this presentation of events as anything other than complete chaos? It appears to me, based on my own limited knowledge, that what we have actually been witnessing on our screens for some time now is no less than the implementation of strategy and tactics that have been developed for this new generational paradigm.
Parenti’s essay has some length to it, but I highly recommend giving it attention as a concise and expository review of the mechanisms in use to deny, corrupt, degrade, or destroy information that should be otherwise available to everyone. As a student of language and its applications over the course of my own life, one thing in particular that caught my attention in Parenti’s essay is the application of inversion of meaning for strategically chosen words. An example directly illustrated by Parenti is the use of the word “reform” by politicians, NGOs, and the media. This is typically exercised in an effort to overturn legislation that actually benefits the public(to the expense of government and/or corporations). But the public, being subjected to decades of indoctrination and programming, have been tricked into believing that “reform” is good and necessary. It is only after the “reform” has been legislated, and rights or entitlements revoked, that people begin to figure out that they were hoodwinked. But not usually how.
Keep that in mind the next time you hear someone on a screen talking about whatever and throwing around words like Sustainability, Inclusivity, and Equity, without actually taking the time to explain how they define those words. Also, pay attention to the fact that you will rarely see or hear one of those three words without at least one of the other two; they are always grouped together with one another. If control of information allows for the control of perception on the macro scale, then control of language allows for control of perception on the micro scale.
So What Did We Learn Today?
While the notion that “war never changes” is incredibly simple to absorb, analysis of the applied strategies and tactics adapted to the pursuit of dominance would appear to indicate otherwise. Those who seek to centralize power, whether through direct force or other means, consistently demonstrate an tendency toward domination of the realm. A quick stroll through history illustrates this point. While it can be considered natural that the methods of dominance would evolve alongside the path of human innovation, it also appears that the ability of the ordinary individual to recognize the vehicles of domination is much slower and complicated by the fact that the individual is being actively denied relevant information that would allow for a more clearly defined image of reality to come into focus.
To be clear, the only accusation that I am aiming at the United States military is acting to protect the interests of the nation under the Constitution to which they have sworn an oath of service. That is their primary mission, and they produce exceptional results more often than they do not. However, any well organized and well funded actor would be capable of employing these strategies and tactics.
Imagine that you were intent on crippling an entire nation(even one considered to be a “super-power”) in order to achieve dominance, how would you do it? It’s not like a rival leader would be able to waltz into the capitol city and announce “hey everybody, we’re here to destroy your way of life.” That might not go so well. Maybe instead you focus on the foundation, the institutions that the people invest their belief into, and you erode those institutions slowly over a very long period of time. Once the foundation becomes fully compromised and finally gives way, everything else will come crashing down on top of it.
By no means do I consider this overly long essay to be comprehensive on the subject of 5GW. Not only is this an aspect of human ingenuity that is still evolving as I write, but we are literally scratching the surface with the data contained herein. As always, do your own research, and reach your own conclusions. But I will ask again: if you were in the midst of war, considering everything presented above, would you even know it? And if you were unaware of a total domination campaign that was being carried out all around you, how would you be able to identify who the target is?
So what did you learn today? What did I get right? What did I get wrong? Let me know in the comments down below.
Additional Intel for the Current Battlefield:
World War III Has Already Started, and It’s an Economic War – Brandon Smith, Alt-Market
What’s Next: CIA a Shining Star? The New Blitz of Wartime Propaganda. What’s the End Game? – Jon Rappaport, No More Fake News