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Hardcover The Sling and the Stone: On War in the 21st Century Book

ISBN: 0760320594

ISBN13: 9780760320594

The Sling and the Stone: On War in the 21st Century

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Book Overview

Ongoing events in Iraq show how difficult it is for the world's only remaining superpower to impose its will upon other peoples. From Vietnam, French and US, to Afghanistan, Russian and US, to Israel and the Palestinians, to Somalia and Kosovo, recent history is replete with powerful military forces being tied up by seemingly weaker opponents. This is Fourth Generation War (4GW), and Colonel Thomas Hammes, United States Marine Corps, tells you all...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

Intriguing and eye-opening look at the future of warfare

_The Sling and the Stone_ by Colonel Thomas X. Hammes is an intriguing and eye-opening look at the future of warfare. After having spent time studying the history and practice of insurgency, Hammes concluded that we are in what he called Fourth-generation warfare (4GW) and that it is vital that policy makers understand how such warfare is waged if they hope to prevail against today's enemies. Hammes drew upon the work of other researchers. Martin van Crevald wrote how warfare evolves with the political, social, and economic forces of the time, that how a society conducts warfare reflects the type of social structure and values it favors, and that historically insurgents have been more adept at fighting unconventional warfare than militaries have, making large traditional armies and navies irrelevant. Bill Lind, Gary Wilson, and various co-authors of theirs also felt that warfare evolved based on wider technological and political changes and organized the history of modern warfare into three generations; 1GW, which is the tactics of line and column, relying on mass man-power and at its height during the Napoleonic Wars, 2GW, which relies on massed firepower, at its height during World War I and reliant on such things as rifled muskets, barbed wire, machine guns, and indirect fire, and 3GW, which is war of maneuver, not coming into its own until the advent of tanks, mobile artillery, close air support, and radio communications. The U.S. excels at 3GW and the author wrote no foe will seek to challenge us again in this type of combat, as they know the futility of presenting the Americans with targets and playing to our strengths. Like previous forms of warfare, 4GW is a natural outgrowth of political, social, technological, and economic evolution, in this case since World War II. Not a sudden transformation, it is a natural outgrowth stemming from a number of factors, including the increase in number of international players (the rise of international and regional organizations, the number and diversity of nations, and the large number of non-state actors, including transnational ones like al-Qaeda, international ones like drug cartels, and sub-national ones like the Kurds) and the growing impact of international financial markets, both of which serve to reduce the power and freedom of nations. Additional factors have been the increasing rate of technological change and the fact that more and more people live in networked international communities (with many ties outside national boundaries) rather than limiting their personal and business contacts to strict hierarchical nation-states. 4GW is a war of ideas. It does not seek to directly destroy military forces as in 1GW, 2GW, and 3GW, nor even command and control facilities and logistics as in 3GW, but rather targets the minds of the decision makers themselves, seeking to destroy the enemy's will to fight. 4GW practitioners seek to convince an enemy's political decision makers that either th

Required Reading for Soldiers and Civilians

Col. Hammes has taken the original thesis of "we make war the way we make money" presented by the Toffler's in "War and Anti-War" and fleshed it out with real examples. He provides a useful background of he various "generations" of war or the evolutions that war has made as economy and cultures have changed, moves on to a description of Fourth Generation warfare (4GW) and then provides detailed examples including present date. It's important to understand that although this book is about 4GW or insurgency warfare, it is also about the direction warfare is taking. The United States must be ready for conflicts that span the spectrum from 2GW to what will become 5GW. 4GW is like any requires lots of human skill, good communications, and interagency support...and something that Americans are not known for....patience. If you are a soldier interested in insurgency and how it is evolving this is a MUST READ book. If you are a civilian you'd better read this book if you want to understand how the world is unfolding around you. This book gets Mike Barr's 6 Star Rating.

4GW is a term we need to know more about

4GW, Fourth Generation Warfare. The kind of war we will be fighting for the remainder of this Century is a way of warfare that most Americans will not find appealing. Hammes builds an excellent case about why we will lose these wars rather than win them if the DOD hews to current strategies. He also creates a game plan for picking our future fights and fighting 4GW enemies much more holistically instead of depending solely on our technological prowess to win. An excellent read to put Afganistan, Iraq, and thre global war on terror in perspective.

Most insightful book on the history and evolution of warfare

This is a fascinating book that exposed me to a different type of author: the military intellectual. For many civilians this may represent an oxymoron. But, reading this lucid, analytical, visionary, and incredibly insightful book will convince you that it is not. There is intelligence in the military after all. Sadly enough, the material of the book was mainly derived from two long internal essays the author generated within the military back in 1988 and 1994. So, the concepts that seemed new to me as a civilian at the end of 2004 were known within the military for over a decade. Thus, even though the author proposed a framework for restructuring the Department of Defense based around human skills able to deal with insurgent warfare instead of solely technological capabilities aimed at outdated State-to-State warfare, the DOD under Rumsfeld and his predecessors chose to go in exactly the wrong direction. The author develops his analytical framework around its main theme: fourth generation warfare (4GW) in 17 very clearly written and sequentially developed short chapters. Near the beginning of the book, he gives his concept a broadbased historical foundation by suggesting that warfare evolves in parallel to society in general. So, just as our civilization has evolved from various disaggregated stages including: nomadic, agricultural, industrial, and finally information based; warfare has now also reached its fourth stage centered also on information and the dissemination of ideas. Counterintuitively, the author demonstrates brilliantly that the U.S. DOD is at a huge disadvantage in this new information based warfare style. Yes, we have superior technology, we have the best weapons. But, because of our uncreative hierarchical monopolistic centralized organization we are totally incapable of exploiting our technology in a timely manner. The author takes the example of generating a surveillance request within the DOD. The turnaround for this information to be authorized and processed will be about a week. On the other hand, a terrorist group simply watching CNN and using cheap commercially available surveillance technology will have information on many of the enemies positions almost live. The more perplexing challenge is that the U.S. with all its wealth and infrastructure and military personnel represents a huge set of targets. The insurgents in whatever shape or form are totally stealthy, mixed in within civilian populations, and often use explicitly civilians as either shields or supporting system for their warfare. Another challenge is the battle of ideas. The 4GW combatants use the media effectively to wear down the political resolve of their enemies. This entails showing bloody civilian casualties as any result of U.S. offensive. This is also done by orchestrating spectacularly shocking beheadings of innocent civilians whose only crime were collaborating with the U.S. The author proposes many detailed solutions to al

Forget the battles, let's win the war

In 1991, Israeli historian and military analyst Martin van Creveld shocked the defense community with his book, The Transformation of War. At least, he shocked that part more worried about post-Soviet threats than about buying weapons. Van Creveld preached that future danger to the West would come from groups other than state armies and that they would employ means that we would find repulsively violent and indiscriminate. In the intervening 13 years, all this has come to pass, but, as Marine Colonel T. X. Hammes eloquently argues in this important new book, you ain't seen nothin' yet. What we are in fact seeing is "fourth generation warfare," (4GW) a term coined in a famous 1989 paper in the Marine Corps Gazette and now easily available on the Internet. Hammes argues that 4GW, far from being something academic or esoteric, represents the cumulative efforts of "practical people" trying to solve the problem of confronting superior military power. Their efforts are bearing fruit: "At the strategic level, the combination of our perceived technological superiority and our bureaucratic organization sets us up for a major failure against a more agile, intellectually prepared enemy." Amen. The failure, in Hammes' view, will not be defeat in some Clausewitzian "decisive battle," but failure nonetheless as American politicians, tiring of the costs and despairing of victory, withdraw our forces short of achieving our objectives. He traces the evolution of 4GW through its successes--Mao, the Vietnamese, Sandinistas, Somalis, and Palestinians (in the first Intifada)--and its failures--the Al-Aqsa Intifada and perhaps al-Qa'ida, although the verdict, I fear, is still out on the latter. It is the transnational element--we are not confronting state-based armies or even isolated insurgencies--that is driving the evolution of guerilla warfare into 4GW. So the 4GW danger in Iraq is not so much the insurgency but whether the conflict acts as a recruiting depot, training facility, and War Lab for violent transnational ideological groups, as was the case in Afghanistan. Hammes concludes that when 4GW organizations remain true to their socially networked roots, and keep their focus on influencing their state opponents' desires to continue, they win. Such organizations only lose when they drop out of the 4GW paradigm--as when the Palestinians of the Al Aqsa Intifida shifted their focus away from influencing Israeli and Western opinion and directly towards destruction of the State of Israel, or perhaps when al-Qa'ida brought the war to the US homeland on 9/11. In the last third of the book, Hammes raises issues that should trouble every US political and military leader. Perhaps most penetrating, given DoD's current focus, is the observation is that if information technology is the key to success in future combat, then we're probably going to lose. The reason is that dispersed, rapidly evolving networks can more quickly invent ways to exploit new informa
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