As the nation-state system goes through its death throes, our own government has admitted that the world is undergoing “Lebanonization.” For no other reason than that, I think it’s a good idea to understand 4th-Generation warfare in all its forms. Personally, I felt most of my officer training was useless for war in the world of the declining nation-state, so this topic is of academic interest to me. In each of these books, question the assumptions and correlate the assumption with those of other authors. These books are not ranked in order.
- Victoria by Bill Lind. A novel about 4th generation war in the United States. Regardless of what you believe about its premises, it’s an excellent, thought-provoking read about the establishment of insurgency, legitimacy, and prosecution of 4th-generation war in various regions of the former United States. It has excellent summaries of key ideas of military strategists (Moltke, et al) and philosophers (the Frankfurt School) that influenced the outbreak of insurgency in the United States, for good or bad. Lind gives an excellent definition of strategy in Victoria from one of Boyd’s talks. He said strategy is the art of connecting yourself to as many other power centers as possible, while separating your enemy from as many power centers as possible.
- American Insurgents; American Patriots by Breen. It examines the countryside insurgency that evicted the British occupation from the countryside and bottled it up in the cities. The interesting thing was the way the insurgency established a larger organization among the 13 colonies and avoided anarchy and established legitimacy. I’m halfway through. This book is a slog but gives the background of one of the few insurgencies run by good people to good results. Most insurgencies are by bad people towards bad results.
- The Fangs of the Lone Wolf: Chechen tactics in the Russian-Chechen wars 1994-2009. The forward states that “what is lacking in the literature about the guerrilla perspective are collections of the combat experiences of the rank and file guerrillas and their tactical leaders. These people seldom leave written records, yet theirs are often the most interesting accounts.” This book contains stories from rank-and-file guerrillas.
- Waging Insurgent Warfare by Seth Jones. This is an excellent study of insurgency that uses quantitative analysis to determine what causes insurgencies to begin and succeed or fail. There is much overlap between this book and Victoria and I recommend it highly. It also has a lot of information about the dangers of urban operations with some quotes by Che Guevara. Generally, urban operations are a bad idea and Lind’s Victoria says that siege is the way to take a city which has been true forever.
- Minimanual of the Urban Guerrilla by Carlos Marighella. I am not commending Marighella’s Marxism by endorsing this book. Marighella was a Communist who didn’t last long. I will say that Latin American Communism, like all Communism and socialism, is an opportunistic infection. The Russians definitely promoted Communism in Latin America but had a lot of help from Brazil’s Catholic clergy. With the decline of the Roman Catholic Christianity came the decline of the culture making it a suitable host for an atheistic utopian ideology like Communism. In the same way, the growth of the Beast of the state and Frankfurt school Marxism in the United States came after the collapse of western culture due to the collapse of its source of morality: Protestantism.
Onto the book. This is an operational urban guerrilla manual written during the time of the military dictatorship in Brazil beginning in 1964. Marighella blames North Americans for establishing and propping-up the dictatorship, and this sounds plausible. The prepper community tends to focus on rural operations when the rest of the world is urbanizing and the “frontiers” and badlands producing modern insurgents are found in urban slums and favelas. Many of these places have little police control, few services, and low economic opportunity besides the drug trade. This is excellent background reading for Gangster Warlords. Marighella explains the essentials of expropriating and fabricating arms and equipment and various urban operations and tactics. He is a fan of SMGs and pistols. Like Von Dach, he recommends expropriating supplies such as ammunition and arms from the enemy. Marighella’s quick death and the information in Waging Insurgent Warfare should be enough to refute Kilcullen’s thesis (below) and the idea of urban insurgent operations generally.
6. Gangster Warlords by Ioan Grillo: A book about one of the longest-running insurgencies in the world: the drug trade. This book focuses on Latin America – including Brazil – and Jamaica. The Red Commando and other armed drug gangs in Brazil’s favelas learned revolutionary doctrine and organization in prison from imprisoned Communist guerrillas derived from Brazil’s middle classes who fought the military dictatorship. The Communist guerrillas were eventually pardoned and re-grouped in Brazil’s government: they became politicians (does this sound familiar)? Their favela counterparts formed paramilitary drug gangs.
This provokes more some comments on urban operations. The urban environment makes for difficult terrain for both insurgents and government forces and can be successful under a very narrow range of circumstances such as a steady supply of drug money and support from politicians. While urban environment makes for excellent cover from remote sensors (see David Kilcullen’s “Out of the Mountains” talk at Goolag), urban video cameras are everywhere now. Unless the guerrilla urban redoubt is a place like a favela where OPFOR can only go en masse lacking the element of surprise, it’s highly vulnerable to door-kicking tactics. Also, urban guerrilla bases-of-operation need to be in areas that are ideologically and often ethnically aligned with the guerrilla. Most cities in the United States are very diverse and liberal, but the more-dangerous areas are usually homogeneous and could care less about voting and are largely suspicious of local law-enforcement. I’ve read Kilcullen’s book “Out of the Mountains” and I don’t have enough experience to know whether its universally true. Mostly, I think the book is just an advertisement for his consulting business. Always remember when you read some product from the defense industry that there are a ton of pigs feeding at the trough. Cui bono?
This topic is of particular interest to me because I’ve lived on the fringes of it. The county of my birth is now home to a quarter-million gang-members, mostly of Latin-American descent. They are controlled by La Eme (the Mexican Mafia) and politicians and are supplied by various cartels who have made more and more inroads into our state. I’ve heard they own shares in 90% of the commercial property in my city.
I’ve also known a few Brazilians since they like to come here to escape the problems of Brazil. Joke’s on them! One colleague paid to enter a favela outside Rio (Grillo discusses how this is possible). He said there was a pile of cash in the middle of the street that no one would touch because it was guarded by guys with AK-47s. Gun control isn’t working very well in Latin America.
- Enemies Foreign and Domestic by Matt Bracken. Bracken needs no introduction here. I have just started reading the first book in this series. I found The Red Cliffs of Zerhoun fascinating and it really started me thinking past the Westphalian nation-state world order and what life might be like after it collapses. Bracken’s books are excellent for tactics. I’m a huge fan of stories of brave men against long odds.
- Guerrilla Warfare by Mao Tse-Tung. I think I read this classic text a decade ago and need to re-read it with new eyes.
- The Transformation of War by Martin Van Creveld. This is another classic text that will help you see past the nation-state system. Anything by Van Creveld is excellent. He has written 26 or 27 books and I’ve only read a handful of them. I also recommend his Rise and Decline of the State as a powerful antidote to managerial statism. Indeed, the state is becoming the main source of grievance in Western nations. As explained in Seth Jones’ book above, widespread grievance makes a territory fertile ground for insurgency. In the United States, the private sector is still wealthy compared to the rest of the world. Should some financial shock happen on par with the Great Depression, the likelihood of insurgency will go way up. Remember: half the country receives some transfer payment from the government. The other half supports the first half. The United States is united by economic activity (mammon) and government coercion and little else.
- Savage Continent by Keith Lowe. WWII didn’t end for a great many people in 1945. I have just started this book but it looks to be a fascinating explanation of the aftermath of a war that killed 37 million people, mostly on the Eastern front. It examines newly-available literature on the Eastern front that has been excluded from histories by Anglophone authors. I now doubt most history written by post-WWII anglophone authors.
- The 4th Generation Warfare Handbook by Bill Lind and Gregory Thiele. An excellent treatise on 4GW and the training of light infantry.
- Total Resistance by Von Dach. This book is a bit dated and focuses on Europe, but provides an excellent overview of rural guerrilla resistance. Like Marighella, Von Dach believes arms, ammo and supplies should be expropriated from the enemy whenever possible. Ammunition, he writes, is the scarcest supply.
- Contra Cross by William R. Meara. I haven’t even started this yet, but it could give some clues as to why so many Latin Americans hate the gringo: we tamper with their affairs.