About 4G WAR

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Why 4GWAR? We named this blog 4GWar because it needed a catchy name in a hurry. Your editor had some news and needed a blog to showcase it (see first posts in November 2009). At the time we were reading a book about the concept of Fourth Generation Warfare. Some military analysts and historians discount the idea, but we think it’s a concept that addresses all of the topics entwined in the conflicts facing the United States and its allies in the 21st century: terrorism, counter insurgency, homeland security, transnational organized crime, counter-IED, unconventional warfare, soft/smart power, and human geography.

Proponents of 4GW maintain that warfare has evolved along with political, social, and economic structures since the 17th Century. From the set-piece battles of the Napoleonic Wars (First Generation Warfare or 1GW) to the blitzkrieg and aerial bombing campaigns of World War II (3GW), warfare has changed tactics as well as technology. In the post-Cold War world, the focus has shifted to asymmetric warfare, also known as unconventional war and irregular warfare. Groups with no hope of going toe-to-toe with national armies are using unorthodox means such as roadside bombs, kidnapping and suicide attacks to achieve their goals. Most conflicts today are not between two conventional armies but between national governments and rebels, insurgents or guerillas. The battlefield is everywhere now: New York office towers, London subways, Bombay hotels, Moscow airports and Madrid train stations.

Responsibility for combating these new threats won’t be confined to the U.S. military. The departments of State, Homeland Security and Justice, as well as the U.S. intelligence community, state and local law enforcement and foreign allies will all have a role to play.

The stakes are high and the challenges are many. It’s worth considering, as one 4GW proponent, Marine Corps Col. Thomas Hammes notes in his book The Sling and The Stone, that despite their status as superpowers, both the U.S. (in Vietnam) and USSR (in Afghanistan) lost 4GWarfare conflicts.

Here at 4GWAR, we concentrate on conflict and development news coming out of Africa, Latin America and the Arctic. We also pay close attention to special operations, counter terrorism, robotic technology (particularly unmanned aircraft), border and transportation security and expeditionary warfare. Since the blog started in 2012, we’ve reported from: Fort Leavenworth, Kansas; Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri; Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia; as well as special ops, unmanned systems, military vehicles and Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps conferences in Tampa and Orlando, Florida; Detroit, Michigan; Las Vegas, Nevada; Atlanta, Georgia; Baltimore, Maryland; Denver and Aspen, Colorado; Alexandria, Virginia, Washington, DC; Oslo, Norway and Stockholm, Sweden.

–John M. Doyle 4gwar.wordpress.com


The Pros and Cons of drone strikes: at Drones and Moans

Norway’s Exercise Cold Response near the Arctic Circle: in BALKAN MAGAZIN (Serbian)

Raven tactical UAV gets miniaturized sensor package: in Defense Systems

Combat controller awarded Air Force Cross for valor: in Smithsonian Air & Space’s Daily Planet

Marines in Exercise African Lion: in Aviation Week‘s ARES

About the editor

John M. Doyle is a Washington, DC area-based defense and homeland security writer with nearly 30 years’ experience writing for the Associated Press, Aviation Week, Seapower, Unmanned Systems, Special Operations Technology and other publications and websites. He blogs about terrorism and where it intersects with homeland security and special operations. That focus includes unconventional warfare, unmanned systems, cyber security, intelligence-gathering sensors and other technology, as well as transnational organized crime, peacekeeping, international development and disaster relief. He can be reached via twitter at @4GWARBLOG and through email at 4gwarblog@gmail.com

To see some samples of his work for print publications and other websites, please visit the IN PRINT page on this website.

21 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Guy Thomas  |  January 28, 2010 at 11:20 am

    Clearly warfare has changed, but too many do not yet realize that fact. An enemy is atttacking with minor force could have a huge impact, if they hit the right targets. Not sure I want to elobarate on this link.

    • 2. John Doyle  |  February 6, 2010 at 9:49 pm

      Guy —
      Thanks for your comment. Hope you will be a frequent visitor and commenter.

  • 3. Nick Ottens  |  April 5, 2010 at 12:15 pm

    Dear John,

    Sorry to use the comments form here but I couldn’t find an e-mailaddress anywhere. Would you mind dropping me a message please? Thanks,


  • 4. Lynn Cooper  |  April 5, 2010 at 5:52 pm

    very interesting. Do you think traditional combat scenarious are now obsolete or just one of a growing number of situations that the military must maintain readiness for?


    • 5. John Doyle  |  April 10, 2010 at 12:22 pm

      Hi Lynn —
      I think it’s probably Door No. 2. in the short term (next 5-10 years).
      But one of the things the Pentagon and Defense Secretary Gates are wrestling with is: How to arm, equip and train to fight “small wars” with asymmetrical opponents while planning ahead for some bigger conflict in the future with a “near peer” like China or a re-emergent Russia (or some new foe like Iran).
      The former requires lots of highly-trained, specially-skilled ground troops (like Marine Expeditionary Units and the Army’s 82nd Airborne and 10th Mountain divisions) along with Special Operations forces like the Green Berets, Navy SEALs and their air and naval support units.
      It will also require more coordination with and spending by the State Dept. and other civilian agencies (Agriculture, Energy, Commerce) and the intelligence community.
      The technology needed includes unmanned vehicles (air, sea and land), submarines, helicopters, satellites, sensors and bomb detection devices.
      The latter will still require expensive, high tech weapons and intelligence gathering systems that take years to develop and test.
      Congress will also be part of the mix, trying to figure out where the money needs to be spent and when to spend it. (Just Google Future Combat Systems, F-22 Raptor, Littoral Combat Ship or ground-based mid-course missile defense to get an idea of the enormity of the cost and strategic planning.)
      Both kinds of warfare will require new cyber intelligence and communications technology as well as transport ships and aircraft.

  • 6. Johnny  |  January 18, 2011 at 11:25 pm

    By far the best book on 4GW is “Homeland Siege” by H. John Poole, a retired Marine officer who led many training schools. He’s written many excellent books on guerilla warfare tactics but Homeland Siege apply’s the most to the United States. Definitely worth checking out.

    • 7. John Doyle  |  January 19, 2011 at 11:08 pm

      Thanks Johnny. Sounds like a must read.

      • 8. Guy Thomas  |  January 22, 2012 at 2:23 pm

        Agree! Thanks for putting the book in view.

  • 9. Laura Barney  |  December 23, 2011 at 12:49 am

    Hello, I’d like to know if I could use the pictures of the Fort Leonard Rapelling Wall. I’d like to use them to make a card.

  • 10. Rachel McAlpine  |  January 20, 2012 at 9:16 pm

    May we use Senior Airman Staci Millar’s photo through night vision lenses in an online training course for web writers please? I don’t know how else to track copyright for this, apart from approaching you. It’s an amazing photo!

    • 11. John M. Doyle  |  January 22, 2012 at 2:49 pm

      Hi Staci —

      That’s a U.S. Defense Department photo. They allow the public to use their photos as long as they are not altered or used for commercial use (like in a calendar or to sell a product). You can check their guidelines at the link below (just to make sure).


      BTW, they really appreciate it if you give crfedit to the photographer (in this instance: Senior Airman Staci Miller)

  • 12. Meriem  |  April 10, 2012 at 3:28 pm

    heyyy….could you provide me with the name of the asian man,because I know a man on fb , he had posted this pic long time ago pretending that he is the asian man

  • 13. John M. Doyle  |  April 10, 2012 at 6:20 pm

    Sorry. Don’t know the name of the Afghan boy. It’s a Defense Dept. photo taken in Helmand Province, Afghanistan in 2009.

  • 14. Meriem  |  April 12, 2012 at 1:58 pm

    ahaa thanks anyway 😉

  • 15. stateofthecentury  |  November 20, 2012 at 7:26 pm

    I really like the blog.

    I wrote a post called The Utility of the War on Terror (using Rupert Smith’s The Utility of Force as a reference), I think it relates well to the theme of your blog.

    • 16. John M. Doyle  |  November 23, 2012 at 11:17 pm

      Thanks! I’ll take a look at that ‘Utility of the War on Terror” post on your blog.

  • 17. Robert James Nielsen  |  November 23, 2012 at 4:08 am

    So far I’m thoroughly enjoying 4GWAR and the posts I’m finding here. Just curious John, are you from the D.C area, or Washington state? Also, I would love to see some posts here about AFSOC if possible. Seems like they tend to go undetected by the general populace and I’d love to see somebody shed a little light on the great things they do. Regardless, great job, and keep it up!

    • 18. John M. Doyle  |  November 23, 2012 at 11:35 pm

      Thanks Robert. You’re right. We haven’t done much on the AFSOC. But hope to remedy that soon. We’ll be at IDGA’s Special Operations Summit in Tampa, Fla. next month and should here plenty about all the SO commands.
      And we are in the DC area — not the Evergreen State.

      • 19. Robert James Nielsen  |  November 24, 2012 at 1:52 am

        I look forward to reading about your time at the summit, and about more info on our nation’s great special operators. And thanks for the clarification!

  • 20. milspecia  |  March 19, 2013 at 12:53 pm

    I’ve been deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan over six times total. My degree is in Special Operations/Low Intensity Warfare. And it’s never been clearer that the future of warfare has shifted, and while low-level commanders remember the bitter lessons they learned in the field I am saddened to see how quickly “big” DoD forgets this, discards the lessons learned, and presumes the future of conflict will be armored units in echelon formations. My hope is in 10 years or so those CPT and LTs in the streets of Fallujah and Kabul will have moved up enough to truly effect change before the next war.

    • 21. John M. Doyle  |  March 19, 2013 at 2:16 pm

      I hope your hope comes to pass. It would be tragic if that hard-earned “street knowledge” walked out the door — either in frustration or because of budget-driven RIFs.
      Thanks for visiting 4GWAR. While we welcome all visitors we’re especially pleased to hear from people like you. Your comments keep us informed, your praise keeps us motivated and your criticism keeps us honest.


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