Geopolitics, War, 4GW, 5GW/Terrorism
Does War have Ethics – 4th & 5th Generation Warfare  - Terrorism

Does War have Ethics – 4th & 5th Generation Warfare

Posted by Aneela Shahzad on

We despise War, realize its devastation and pain, yet as a species humanity never ceases to war – we keep warring in every kind of budget.

In Myanmar we use rape, arson and batons, in raged-tagged Afghanistan we use shoulder-held stingers, in Syria we use machine guns, grenades and grenade-launchers and in the Great Lake Region we use genocide. But if we have billion-dollar budgets, we use unmanned drones, death-ray lasers guns, reconnaissance satellites, aircraft carriers, anti-ballistic missile system deployments and PSYOPs. While the old methods were deadly, the new ones are such, they potentially threaten the very existence of the human race.

While the first 3 generations of warfare present the evolution of the industrial components of warfare and the tactical advances gained thereby - the 4th Generation Warfare presents a striking change in the approach towards subduing the enemy – it diminished the difference between the combatant and the civilian.

4GW has its roots in the establishment of the United Nations, an organization created at the end of WW11 with the aim to avoid a WW111 at any cost. Though the world poses to have become civilized after WW11 but the craving for human blood has never ceased in certain quarters of power - so as the UN formalized a system to avoid state-to-state wars to some extent – more emphasis accumulated on espionage, backdoor diplomacy, proxy-rule and proxy-wars. There is a long list of proxy-wars fought between the Soviet and the US camps by their support for guerrilla groups in Korea, Cuba, Laos, Vietnam, Guatemala, Columbia, Nigeria, Angola and others, during the Cold War period.

With the fall of USSR and the end of the Cold War, it was thought that the US has become the sole superpower and no nation-state has now the means or will to attack the US – this led to the development of 4GW. The idea behind 4GW was, in absence of state to state war, to gain economic, strategic and cultural dominance for the US and its Allies over most if not all nation-states by backing, funding and training non-state actors such as guerrillas, terrorists, and rioters. 4GW’s reliance on non-state actors, situated in the target-states, far from the command centers makes 4GW essentially a more chaotic warfare than conventional warfare, wherein there is an end of war with winning or losing – instead 4GW has an inherent strategy of never-ending terror-for-the-sake-of-terror. Moreover 4GW’s use of guerrillas, terrorists, rioters and psyops are designed to deny the enemy a center of gravity at which to strike – thus creating an enemy for the target-state within the target-state that is invisible and impossible to strike. This is so because this enemy is either a part of the community (guerillas), has its hiding places (terrorists) or even apparently legitimate civil society elements behind it (rioters) - and the 4th Generation warriors apply force to the target-state without giving it a point at which to carry out a decisive counter-strike.  

Adding to all this, to fill the gaps left by the non-state actor, which is inherently low-tech as it has been assembled from within the under-privileged and remote sections of society, and whose basic aim is to lay down a grounds of a disintegrated society that is now more insecure, terrorized, impotent, and hopeless. The 4GW command center improvises with high-tech mission-accomplishers – this represent the evolution of 4G into the Fifth Generation Warfare. Drones which exterminate targets from thousands of miles away with remote-control joysticks on a computers and small Special Force units, another name for high-tech assassins, fill the gap of taking high-profile targets.

Technology has rendered US and its European Allies more and more alien to the states they want to virtually occupy and control. 4GW evolution has gone to the extent that future warfare is being designed purely on 4G lines, sidelining most of conventional ways of fighting – theoretically and to some extent practically the US controls and has plans to control whole continents under command units called USAFRICOM, USCENTCOM, USEUCOM, USNORTHCOM, USPACOM and USSOUTHCOM. These command units rely heavily on the US control of all ocean routes and the deterrence provided by advanced naval power, directly or indirectly over most states. This augments the command yielded via military bases in over 63 countries around the world. But all this presence does not mean the conventional boots-on-ground or air-to-air fighting, instead with all this presence as a form of deterrence, the real work is done via individuals and small hit-teams such as private contractors laced high-tech sensors, cameras and spy-aircraft and Joint Special Operations Command units (JSOC) that execute strike operations, assassinations, reconnaissance in denied areas, and special intelligence missions. All this evolution presents 4GW going into 5GW, which is abbreviated as the ‘any time, any place, anything’ warfare, only with super technical support.

So 4GW present the ideological shift from a conventional war with war causalities and collateral damages on both sides, to a war where a target-state is paralyzed before it realizes that it is under attack and all damage is one-sided. The non-state-actor breaks down the integrity of the state from inside, splitting the society into adversaries by advocating ideologies alternate to those that unify the people as a nation and by robbing the people of the pride they associated with national identity, as mercenaries killing groups with extremist agendas pose to be legitimate political entities of the state. And hit-teams, the 5GW concept, further undermine the pride by breaching the sovereignty of the nation from time to time. 

Being a member of the global village, a village increasing by weight and shrinking by space, when war is being brought to our door-step, it is imperative that each global citizen recognize the parameters of war – for war is like ever, inevitable and ceaseless.

To have a vision of the prevailing international law as per the dictates of the United Nations we should reckon first that there is also a notion of ‘Just War’ that has been a subject of much research and debate through the centuries. Just War theorists talk of conditions that make waging a war just and the just rules of to be applied during the war. Jus de Bello says that for a war to be justly waged it must have a just cause, right intention, a probability of success and proportionality and it should be used as a last resort. While Jus in Bellum means the right conduct of war include non-combatant immunity, use of proportional force, restraint from prohibited weapons and acts of reprisals.

In agreement to Just War Theory the UN admits the possibility of war, in fact the Charter seems to meekly acknowledge in Article 73 that occupation is not an issue after all, it says:

[Members of the United Nations which have or assume responsibilities for the administration of territories whose peoples have not yet attained a full measure of self-government recognize the principle that the interests of the inhabitants of these territories are paramount, and accept as a sacred trust the obligation to promote to the utmost, within the system of international peace and security established by the present Charter, the well-being of the inhabitants of these territories…]

It is argued that the UN charter does not clearly define what an occupation is and the only criterion it sets to certify a war as a just war is that the ‘Security Council itself authorizes the use of force…’ (Chapter VII). Now it must be understood that the UN is a body that basically works on petitions or requests presented by member states upon which discussions are opened, votes are cast and finally resolutions are formulated and forwarded to concerned parties. These resolutions are non-binding suggestions, recommendations, advice, pleas or reminders of binding obligations via Conventions, the Charter, UN Law and UNSC resolutions. However if the UNGA determines that an issue has become a threat to global peace and security it can ask the UNSC to decide upon the possibility of using force to resolve the matter. The Security Council has 15 members out of which 5 have Veto Power. So when the UN will decide that a certain war is just, it will not decide upon the bases of universal morals but upon the power of vote. And the Vote is inevitably influenced by interests, regional and economic relations, ethnic and religious affinities and finally by the Veto.

Moreover, the Charter being a set of vague definitions, the UN can always be manipulated towards desired outcomes.

For instance in the case of the Iraq War (2003) and its occupation till 2011 and the continued presence of foreign forces till date – the Bush Administration maneuvered the UNSC through a series of resolutions asking Iraq to ‘disarm and cooperate with weapons inspectors’. The UNSC resisted the US demand of use of force to the end, it asked for ‘use of all means’ to force Iraq to ‘comply with the inspectors’ and in case of failure to report back to the UNSC, but the US interpreted the resolution 1441, in the manner it pleased and resorted to use of force without definite consent of the UNSC. Now that the US and its Allies had attacked and occupied Iraq, the discussion of Jus ad Bellum (just cause) ended and that of Jus de Bello (just conduct in war) prevailed – probably considering US/Allies the benevolent occupiers committed to ‘administration of territories whose peoples have not yet attained a full measure of self-government’ (Art. 73). An article that clearly defies the concept of democracy, because when the UN says that ‘democracy provides the natural environment for the protection and effective realization of human rights’, perhaps the UN is not ready to un-conditionally accept all groups of people as ‘humans’ as they simply are not capable of ‘self-government’.

So much for wars that have at least some component of conventional warfare, where parallel to 4G techniques there is some boots-on-ground presence. But what of Terrorism and the War against it?

Excessive reliance on 4GW techniques has made the already difficult to identify Just-War parameters even more vague to establish, as small-wars between state-based armies and non-state actors is increasingly becoming a plague in more and more states. With proxy and hit-team warfare it has become impossible to for the UN to have ‘determination of threat to peace, breach of peace, or act of aggression’ required by Article 39. Nor is it possible to determine if/when Member States have breached the ‘sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of other States’, Article 2 (4).

Moreover Terrorism has not only open the door to wide-spread foreign interference but the War on Terror advocated as such has made anything happening inside any state a potential ‘threat to US security and its interests’, thus also nullifying Article 2(7) which says that ‘nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state’.

By breaking the integrity of a nation from inside, introducing chaos and thereby effectively damaging the democratic process 4GW definitely does not fall inside the Just War parameters – even if it is waged against a state that has transgressed upon another. War can simply not be waged upon non-combatants, this is the single most ignoble and dehumanizing 4GW technique, and this is exactly what and only what the 4GW warrior is designated to do.

But the question is, does 4GW have a futuristic value – it is a matter of how long will nation-states not recognize the methods of psyops and proxies; how long will it take for them to figure their own counter-4GW strategy; and when will proxies of one alliance start overwhelming those of the other. It is not that 4GW is exclusively a US strategy, most other adversaries play the same game, and therefore methods to counter it have also evolved with time. Governments have come to take back their influence on media to unite the people in pro-national ideology, surveillance over potential hit-teams has been tightened and many armies are being trained on counter-terrorism methods.

Sri Lanka has perhaps set a precedence in the fight against terrorism. The Tamil LTTE was a separatist insurgent group that had fought a 26 years long campaign (1983-2009) for an independent Tamil state, Tamil Eelam, in the north and east Sri Lanka. LTTE was initially trained and funded by India. Sri Lankan military gradually learned to combine guerrilla tactics with conventional ones, increased its intelligence, used media to present the LTTE as a criminal gang and its own soldiers as front line heroes and worked on post-conflict reconstruction and rehabilitation programs. Most of all naval capabilities were enhanced to severe supply lines of the LTTE Tigers.

Pakistan has been a victim of terrorism long since US and Allies invaded Afghanistan in 2001. For the first decade the country seemed to have no idea what it could do to root out the undetectable cancer of target killings, suicide bombings and explosions on public places and innocent civilians. Gradually the government was able to identify groups of mercenary killers mingled between Afghan Mujahedeen groups that it supported and a series of operations were conducted to clear large swaps of area of militant presence – the operations are on-going against the 4GW warrior – whose only two goals are ‘to survive’ and ‘to inflict deadly violence upon the populace’.

So will the 4GW be the name of the game in future warfare or will it eventually have to be aborted as a bad deal. Apart from internal factors like use of media, in which governments striving to counter psychological warfare re-enter media to unite people against the chaos instigated by terror – the cast-away of 4GW will also depends upon blowbacks.

Starting from the Iran-Contra Scandal in which the US faced double humiliation in the International Court of Justice for supporting the Contra terrorist groups against the legitimate government of Nicaragua and for selling arms to Iran when publically siding Iraq in the Iran-Iraq War – the US kept taking one blowback to another. In Palestine, wary of Yasser Arafat’s power, the Israelis backed by US, decided to support Hamas that took root as a fundamentalist religious party in Palestine. But eventually Hamas proved to be Israel’s worst nightmare, supported/funded by the other opponent of the Cold War.

Another blowback came from US funding/training of Al Qaeda to help destabilize Afghanistan to the point of US/NATO invasion of Afghanistan and then as in destabilizer in Pakistan. Al Qaeda was the sole international network to lure, train and plant jihadist from all around the world into target states Afghanistan, Pakistan and later in Iraq. But the blowback in this case was that after an invasion of 13 years, nor did US have decisive control over Afghanistan nor could it reap the fruits it intended to, neither could it decisively destabilize Pakistan, where counter-terrorism measures were super-structured to secure the country.

In Iraq, the US plan to redraw the Middle East map and support Kurdish nationalism and for that purpose allow Al Qaeda to reorganize in Iraq under different names that eventually culminated into ISIS, eventually resulted in a blowback. Baghdad increasing came under Iranian influence and though ISIS was successful in destabilizing both Iraq and Syria, the length of the war allowed Russia to strengthen its alliances and organize military incursion against ISIS in Syria, giving US/Allies a great blow. Ukraine too is an example of blowback, where successful psyops and rioting achieved the goal of installing a pro-EU government but Russia’s instant creation of rebel forces in the east has made Ukraine yet another soar fruit for the US and the EU that they are unable to swallow.

What will happen then, if US/EU alliance concludes that the 4GW game has become too easy for other to counter? What will be the next future warfare then? What will be the 5th Generation Warfare?

One has to reckon that if the prime goal of 4GW is not to invade a country or even to essentially control its resources but only to destabilize it! What if the only thing required for US and its Allies to secure another American Century is a ‘more chaotic’ world, with less competition and no one to challenge them. In that case 4GW is an end in itself and prolonged small wars spread around the globe serve the purpose. Perhaps then 4GW will not be going away any time soon, but wherever counter-terrorism efforts are succeeding and blowbacks are pushing invisible aggressors back to their hidings, those are the places that have to be replaced with yet more strategy – the strategy of more absolute deterrence – a real and present threat for enemy nation-states.

Ideally the Fifth Generation warriors will be super-empowered individuals and groups with specialized knowledge and high-tech gadgets, enabling them to maneuver asymmetrically to achieve targets. Imagine a couple of combatants with ultra-vision night gears, high-sensor communicators, connected to a high-bandwidth network, in body-suits that are light and designed to enhance their boot-speed, carrying guns that are more precise and more lethal, working in concert with an unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) – how calmly would they bring terror to a small village-folk and with what agility would they be able to destroy their high-profile targets, and practically paralyze the decision-power of the enemy.

But 5GW is more than just small groups of super-soldiers – super-guerrillas can hurt a nation but cannot control it. For global power and control the super-powers would still have to beat their opponents in the race for more lethal and assured fire-power. More advanced fleets with ballistic and anti-ballistic missile systems, guided by survivable reconnaissance satellites. If your opponent can destroy your satellite, jam your radar, hack your computer or hit your missile before you hit theirs – you lose.

Currently the US and Britain have deployed the deadliest submarine-launched ballistic missiles, the Tridents, in oceans around the world, but the race is on as many other nations have made simpler versions of these missiles… all ballistic missiles carry nuclear warheads.