Towards a general xGW framework

xGW theory has been under scrutiny in the “Twitterverse”:, and by the usual suspects. Although xGW theory has seemed to progress in the past few years it is still a solution for a problem that we cannot seem to figure out. I have even asked “what use is xGW?”:

Selil offers his drawing skills to find “a unified generational warfare theorem”: His visualizations are very inspiring — so in fact, that they motivated me to think about my own diagrammatical solution to the xGW problem.

Selil raises the usual problem with generational warfare theory: chronology. “tdaxp addressed”: this by suggesting the “G” from xGW be revised from “generation” to “grade” to de-emphasize the dependence on time. I suggested returning to “Boyd’s original categories”: that served as the basis of 4GW theory and are time independent. However, that precludes any relationship between the different grades of warfare. That is a core problem of xGW: what is the relationship between the various grades (if a relationship exists at all)? It seems to me that Selil is trying to solve this problem with his “pretty pictures”: I also have tried to capture this problem in a series of diagrams I present to you below. Be forewarned: these diagrams represent the _problem_ with xGW theory, not the solution. They may be a step towards the framework that makes xGW useful, a goal that Selil and I — among others — find worthy.

My hypothetical diagrammatical framework aims to help us think not only about what direction we should take the debate, but also the types of insights such a framework could offer. This hypothetical framework is centered upon relationships, specifically the overlaps between the various grades of warfare. Below I will present a number of examples. I offer no real-world examples to warrant my selections of the categories, and there is numerous unstated assumptions in the models. This is purely an intellectual exercise meant to engender more discussion.

_Example 1_ take grades 1 through 4 and assume they have an equal and overlapping relationship. The result reveals four (a, b, c, d) transitional types of war. Question: could the variously defined 5GW be found in one of these areas, or should it get its own circle?

xGW Framework Fig 1

_Example 2_ shows a much tighter Venn diagram resulting in a much more complex set of relationships: _beta_, _mu_, _omega_, _delta_ and the elusive _apeiron_, the singularity of conflict.

xGW Framework Fig 2

Assuming one could devise a set of stringent rules of demarcation, data could be gathered about specific conflicts, diagrammed and compared. Diagrams could be analyzed for patterns useful in decision-making.

xGW Framework Fig 3

_Example 3_ uses “Boydian categories”: of conflict (Attrition Warfare, Maneuver Conflict, Moral Conflict) rather than the 1 to 4 generations in fashion recently. Here we have four sub-categories of conflict _beta_, _mu_, _delta_ and infinity.

xGW Framework Fig 4

To add another layer of complexity, we could include the spectrum of conflict — from high intensity conflict (HIC) to low intensity conflict (LIC). Each of the grade circles could be gradients of the spectrum (from dark to light). In the example below the darker shades would represent HIC while lighter shades represent LIC.

xGW Framework Fig 5

This hypothetical diagram would cause us to ask the question: Are the overlapping “sub”-grades of conflict compatible with HIC? It seems only the three major types of conflict reach to the outer boundaries. That would be an interesting insight.

All said and done, this is simply speculative blue-sky engineering to get people to think about the relationships between the various grades of war. A general (and unified) framework is still needed to guide discussion of xGW, even if a use for it has yet to be discovered.

About Younghusband

Sir Francis Edward Younghusband (1863-1942) was a British explorer, army officer, military-political officer, and foreign correspondent born in India who led expeditions into Manchuria, Kashgar, and Tibet. He three times tried and failed to scale Mt. Everest and journeyed from China to India, crossing the Gobi desert and the Mustagh Pass (alt. c.19,000 ft/5,791 m) of the Karakoram mountain range in modern day Pakistan. Convinced of Russian designs on British interests in India, Younghusband proactively engaged in the nineteenth century spying and conflict over Central Asia between the British and the Russians known as the Great Game. "Younghusband" is a Canadian who has spent a number of years bouncing back and forth between his home country and Japan. Fluent in Japanese and English with experience in numerous other languages from Spanish to Georgian, Younghusband has travelled throughout Asia. He graduated with an MA from the War Studies Department at the Royal Military College of Canada, where he focussed on the Japanese oil industry and energy security issues. He has recently returned to Canada from Japan, and is working in the technology sector.
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7 Responses to Towards a general xGW framework

  1. Ralph Hitchens says:

    It’s true that attaching the term “generation,” with its “temps perdu” context, to an otherwise useful taxonomy of warfare often leads to wrong assumptions and bad analysis. The US and many other nations still equip and train large segments of their military establishments for what must be characterized as third generation warfare, even as we grapple with this elusive fourth generation. In any event we should utilize taxonomies while not becoming their prisoner.

  2. Benjamin Walthrop says:

    Selil’s diagrams are distinctly mor linear in my mind than the Venn Diagram construct here at CA. The Venn Diagram construct captures the grade of warfare, and Selil’s linear model seems to capture the time component. Both of these approaches are at most 3 dimensional models. It occurs to me that these apporaches are being limited to describing the problem in 3 dimensions because of their 2D rendering (the third dimension is captured by the varying shade of the colors in the Venn Diagram models). A Matlab guru might want to take a crack at defining a model in 4 dimensions using a 3D construct with color (or some other indication) representing the fourth dimension. The dimensions that I propose for this model would be: (1) Tactical Time (2) Intensity (3) Category and (4)Geological Time. The mathmatical relationships of the metrics could them be derived to draw a surface that may better illustrate the xGW framework.

  3. Selil says:

    Interesting consideration Mr. Walthrop,

    To gather dimensional analysis deeper than the three we’ve covered here it might be interesting to brainstorm and categorize the specific relationships. We can easily model X,Y, Z, t (time) but then v (volume) and N (value) would be interesting. Then there are the trinitarian factors that could also help a model be very much applicable to the real world.

  4. tdaxp says:

    In an email conversation a while back, Chet Richards pointed out that Boyd never argued that the attrition/maneuver/moral categorization was exhaustive or universal. It may be just three categories that came to mind in an effort to argue a larger point.

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