Understanding 5th generation warfare

As a vortex of violence

Cynthia D Ritchie January 06, 2019
The writer is a freelance director, producer and communications consultant. She lives in Islamabad. Email: [email protected]; Twitter: @cynthiadritchie

More ‘developed’ nations often claim they are more democratic than their developing counterparts and often employ talking heads to push this narrative. Over the years, and certainly more recently, these talking heads can be seen desperately trying to push one version of events while ganging up on others who have a difference of opinion — cyber bullying. Further, these talking troll heads try to muddy waters by falsely labeling people they don’t know and claiming Fifth Generation Warfare (5GW) is nothing more than a silly conspiracy to derail attempts at their free speech. And while many unfounded conspiracies abound, it behooves us to take a closer look at these individuals and their claims. For starters, let’s consider what 5GW is.

Turns out, 5GW is real. Only it doesn’t feature armies or clear ideas. In an article for Wired Magazine, written about 10 years ago, David Axe quoted the US Army Major Shannon Beebe, the top Intel officer for Africa at the time, as describing the “fifth-generation as a vortex of violence, a free-for-all of surprise destruction motivated more by frustration than by any coherent plans for the future.”

Axe writes further, “5GW is what happens when the world’s disaffected direct their desperation at the most obvious symbol of everything they lack.” He quotes Marine Lt Col Stanton Coerr, for Marine Corps Gazette: “5GW is… espoused by [the likes of] al Qaeda… with aspirations of setting up alternative political systems… they’re opportunists, intent only on destruction. But even pointless violence can have a perverse logic, for the sudden, irrational destruction undermines the idea that nations… are viable in the modern world.”

Interestingly, both military officers were quoted by Raashid Wali Janjua in one of his columns for a national daily: “Pakistan is already in the throes of this phenomenon, internally generated and externally abetted. Like the resource curse of countries like Angola and Congo, Pakistan’s geographical location is a curse. Instead of yielding economic dividends it has caused constant meddling by global powers in its internal affairs. Faced with such constant supply of war fuel, the soft state model of governance by an illiberal democracy is a sure recipe for chaos and disorder.” Clearly there are issues that need to be handled by the State.

But when you have cyber bullies attempting to force others to share their narrative, the message gets lost and becomes almost disingenuous. What may be seen as important news by some appears almost as propaganda to others. But with so much propaganda these days, how can one differentiate between what’s authentic and what is completely contrived?

A Forbes article, by Travis Bradberry, who covers emotional intelligence and leadership performance, recently described the ‘12 habits Of Genuine People’. In summary, these individuals: don’t try to make people like them — they “aren’t desperate for attention”, and “speak in a friendly, confident, concise manner;” they don’t “pass judgment” — they are open-minded and approachable, and have the ability to “see the world through other people’s eyes;” they forge their own paths — “genuine people don’t derive their sense of pleasure and satisfaction” from other’s opinions, they have their own “internal compass” and are not swayed by the fact that somebody may not like it; they “treat everyone with respect;” they “aren’t motivated by material things;” they are “thick-skinned”; they “aren’t driven by ego;” they “aren’t hypocrites.”

We can similarly assess content to determine genuine from disingenuous authors (if there is an author, if not, it’s suspect), and whether the content is attention-worthy or just mindless fluff in the vortex of caustic conversations designed to stir up violence and chaos. In order for Pakistan to succeed, it can learn to engage more effectively with volatile events, efficiently mitigate them and grow stronger as a nation we can all be proud of — despite the chaos.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 6th, 2019.

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Usama | 3 years ago | Reply I was expecting to read about 5th generation war. The writer wrote everything except the war.
Saeed | 3 years ago | Reply Hi. Informative piece. But can anyone please explain what a 'communications consultant' is doing writing articles about 5th Generation Warfare and another one on Fragile States? Has this matter become that transparent now?
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