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Torture and Fourth Generation War

Discussions on this week’s Senate report on the CIA and torture centered on two things: whether it’s moral. (It isn’t. Before 9/11, all Americans agreed on that.) And whether it worked to protect our country. The report said torture didn’t do any good.

But former Vice President Dick Cheney charged the report was “full of c***.” According to FoxNews, which summarized its interview with him:

“Cheney would not comment on specific instances of ill-treatment… But he said he and President George W. Bush were fully informed of approved interrogation techniques — including water boarding — and applauded the work of the CIA.”

Cheney said: “The men and women of the CIA did exactly what we wanted to have them do in terms of taking on this program. It was not deemed torture by the lawyers, and secondly, it worked.”

It’s somewhat amusing how analysts noted this was the first time Cheney identified Bush as knowing everything about the torture. In mafia terms, it’s like the consigliere, who’s supposed to be the ultimate insulation, fingering the don.

Cheney’s words also showed Bush and the rest of their administration ignored how terrorism, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and the other recent wars, are part of what’s called Fourth Generation War, or 4GW.

Fortunately, the major strategist 4GW has come out with a new book, On War: The Collected Columns of William S. Lind, 2003-2009. The foreward is by noted military strategist and historian Martin van Crevald. It’s on Kindle, which offers a free sample from the early pages. But you also can read many of the columns free where they first appeared online at Military.com. Some also are here.

Lind explains:

“First Generation warfare relies on massed manpower; Second Generation on massed firepower. Both First and Second Generation warfare are essentially linear. Third Generation warfare shifts to non-linear tactics based on speed and flexibility. Fourth Generation warfare is also non-linear; the fighting is conducted by non-state forces unbound by the rules of conventional warfare. However, the strategic objectives of Fourth Generation warriors extend beyond mere terrorism, which is only a technique.”

Lind has developed his theories after the insights of the late Col. John Boyd, USAF, whom Lind calls “undoubtedly the greatest military theorist America has produced.” Lind explains:

“Another of John Boyd's most important contributions to military theory was his observation that war is waged at three levels, the physical, the mental and the moral. The physical level is the weakest and the moral level is the strongest, with the mental in between.”

America is the greatest force ever at the physical level. Its military spans the globe and can strike with the most advanced weapons available, from drones to nuclear missiles.

Yet at the moral level – America’s global reputation of being the world’s good guys – the latest torture scandal is a major strategic defeat. As with other such scandals, such as Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, it will prove a recruitment tool for ISIS, al Qaeda, the Taliban and whatever other 4GW forces are out there or will develop.

Strategic myopia is characteristic not just of Cheney and Bush, but of the military establishment and the whole Neocon movement, which never has shown even an inkling of understanding 4GW. In recent days National Review has run story after story defending the torture and attacking Senate Democrats – no Republicans signed on – for releasing the report. For example, Ian Tuttle’s article is headlined, “Willful Blindness on Detainees.” Subheadline, “The Democrats’ CIA report overlooks the indispensable clues enhanced interrogation provided.”

He quotes former CIA director Michael Hayden from a 2011 interview, “What we got, the original lead information — and frankly it was incomplete identity information on the couriers — began with information from CIA detainees at the black sites.”

But Tuttle includes nothing of how the “enhanced interrogation” has been a 4GW strategic disaster, with consequences far worse than if there had been no bin Laden raid. Of course, the raid led to the Obama 2012 campaign slogan, mouthed by VP Joe Biden at the Democratic National Convention, “Bin Laden is dead, General Motors is alive,” which quickly became a popular bumper sticker.

The question is whether those who run American foreign and military policy ever will be able to see the 4GW strategic picture beyond the next torture session, the next drone strike, the next foolish war or the next election.

John C. Seiler, Jr.

John C. Seiler, Jr.

John C. Seiler, Jr., writes from California.

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