Welcome to Fourth Generation Warfare

The United States has the best military equipment available. In the government’s arsenal lies battle ships, aircraft carriers, fighter jets, bombers, tanks, spy satellites, guided missiles, and unmanned drones. All these things are sophisticated, expensive, and practically useless in fourth generation warfare. For those who are unaware fourth generation warfare is the new paradigm being used and can be summarized by the following tactics:

  • Are complex and long term
  • Terrorism (tactic)
  • A non-national or transnational base—highly decentralized
  • A direct attack on the enemy’s culture
  • Highly sophisticated psychological warfare, especially through media manipulation and lawfare
  • All available pressures are used – political, economic, social and military
  • Occurs in low intensity conflict, involving actors from all networks
  • Non-combatants are tactical dilemmas
  • Lack of hierarchy
  • Small in size, spread out network of communication and financial support
  • Use of Insurgency and guerrilla tactics

Instead of massive armies equipped with the most powerful and sophisticated weapons available, fighting forces today are using tactics that can be done very cheaply and are brutally effective. Using such tactics a $4.5 billion aircraft carrier can be legitimately threatened by a man with a small boat, a warhead, and no desire to continue living:

“They have increased the number of submarines … they increased the number of fast attack craft,” Vice Admiral Mark Fox told reporters. “Some of the small boats have been outfitted with a large warhead that could be used as a suicide explosive device. The Iranians have a large mine inventory.”

“We have watched with interest their development of long range rockets and short, medium and long range ballistic missiles and of course … the development of their nuclear programme,” Fox, who heads the U.S. Fifth Fleet, said at a briefing on the fleet’s base in the Gulf state of Bahrain.

Some may laugh but this tactic was successfully deployed by Japan in World War II and against the USS Cole in 2000. An Iranian mine also caused severe damage the USS Samuel B. Roberts in 1988. Big powerful ships are sitting ducks to small maneuverable weapon systems.

The days of a militarily superior force being guaranteed to obliterate another force are gone. Vietnam demonstrated what a determined but militarily inferior force can do. Many people believe that a war with Iran would be an almost guaranteed victory for the United States but that is far from the truth. While we have more powerful ships, they have people willing to do for their cause. People who are willing to die for a cause are more powerful than the largest warships because they can use suicidal tactics. What is an aircraft carrier going to do if 50 small speedboats equipped with warheads comes hurtling towards her?

A war with Iran will be costly and an entirely pointless act as opposed to peaceful coexistence this is possible so long as we give up our desire to create an ever-expanding empire.