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The Sling and the Stone: On War in the 21st Century (Zenith Military Classics)

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4GW (Fourth Generation Warfare) is the only kind of war America has ever lost. And we have done so three times - in Vietnam, Lebanon, and Somalia. This form of warfare has also defeated the French in Vietnam and Algeria, and the USSR in Afghanistan.As the only Goliath left in the world, we should be worried that the world's Davids have found a sling and stone that work." - 4GW (Fourth Generation Warfare) is the only kind of war America has ever lost. And we have done so three times - in Vietnam, Lebanon, and Somalia. This form of warfare has also defeated the French in Vietnam and Algeria, and the USSR in Afghanistan.As the only Goliath left in the world, we should be worried that the world's Davids have found a sling and stone that work." - Chapter 1, The Sling and the Stone: On War in the 21st Century. The War in Iraq. The War on Terror. These types of "asymmetrical" warfare are the conflicts of the 21st century - and show how difficult it is for the world's remaining superpower to battle insurgents and terrorists who will fight unconventionally in the face of superior military power. This change in military conflict may seem sudden.


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4GW (Fourth Generation Warfare) is the only kind of war America has ever lost. And we have done so three times - in Vietnam, Lebanon, and Somalia. This form of warfare has also defeated the French in Vietnam and Algeria, and the USSR in Afghanistan.As the only Goliath left in the world, we should be worried that the world's Davids have found a sling and stone that work." - 4GW (Fourth Generation Warfare) is the only kind of war America has ever lost. And we have done so three times - in Vietnam, Lebanon, and Somalia. This form of warfare has also defeated the French in Vietnam and Algeria, and the USSR in Afghanistan.As the only Goliath left in the world, we should be worried that the world's Davids have found a sling and stone that work." - Chapter 1, The Sling and the Stone: On War in the 21st Century. The War in Iraq. The War on Terror. These types of "asymmetrical" warfare are the conflicts of the 21st century - and show how difficult it is for the world's remaining superpower to battle insurgents and terrorists who will fight unconventionally in the face of superior military power. This change in military conflict may seem sudden.

30 review for The Sling and the Stone: On War in the 21st Century (Zenith Military Classics)

  1. 5 out of 5

    James

    Six stars - important, deeply insightful, and very well organized and written. Col. Hammes argues that our armed forces are not organized, equipped, or trained for the type of war we've been facing more often than not since Vietnam, i.e. 4th generation warfare or 4GW (1st gen was basically masses armed with pointy things or slow, inaccurate firearms trying to kill each other, i.e. everything before the Civil War; 2nd gen was use of firepower to destroy the enemy army, i.e. WWI; 3rd gen concentra Six stars - important, deeply insightful, and very well organized and written. Col. Hammes argues that our armed forces are not organized, equipped, or trained for the type of war we've been facing more often than not since Vietnam, i.e. 4th generation warfare or 4GW (1st gen was basically masses armed with pointy things or slow, inaccurate firearms trying to kill each other, i.e. everything before the Civil War; 2nd gen was use of firepower to destroy the enemy army, i.e. WWI; 3rd gen concentrates on speed to outmaneuver the enemy without necessarily destroying them, i.e. blitzkrieg; 4th gen shifts the focus from the enemy army to the national leadership giving the orders & persuading them the war is unwinnable or too expensive to be worth it, i.e. what happened to us in Vietnam.) He further notes that we're moving backward, not forward - 3GW depends on the brass saying what they want to happen, then letting the tactical commanders on the spot figure out the 'how' part, based on the idea that war is chaotic and unpredictable, and there's no way a general can keep close enough track to effectively micromanage. The French tried in 1940 and lost their country in 10 weeks to Germans improvising on the spot. We got better at that in the '90s, particularly in the Marine Corps. In '90-91 I had the great luck to be a Marine captain at Quantico attending the Marine Corps University's Command and Control Systems Course. Col. Hammes was there, as a major attending Command and Staff College, and I heard him present a couple of times. We had an iconoclastic Commandant, General Al Gray, who was pushing decision-making down as far as possible for a given situation, often to the junior NCOs leading squads. I saw that for the first time in history, instead of senior commanders having less information available than they needed, they had more than they could take in, organize, and analyze - hence the thrust to let the young leaders with eyes on the situation figure out how to do what they knew the commanders wanted done. Unfortunately, as computer and communication systems increased in power, the urge to micromanage got the better of the brass, and they decided we could and should put the 'how' decisions back in the hands of the generals by using all those whizzing electrons to give them a perfect, real-time understanding of the situation at that micro level. The reason it's unfortunate is that it's impossible. The butterfly effect applies in war. That god-like view is available only to the gods, if there are any watching, and they're not on the radio giving orders. What we need is ever-greater flexibility, cross-sharing of situational information, and leaders at all levels trained and trusted to make the decisions they can make instead of waiting on their bosses. Not only that, by myopically keeping our focus on recognizably military enemy forces - the ones we're the best in the world at fighting, and the ones that therefore would have to be idiots to take us on in the ways we fight best (Saddam Hussein being the only recent example of that level of stupidity) we're ignoring all kinds of other threats. Like guys in civilian clothes hijacking jets and flying them into buildings. Like the very kind of computer virus fight we've engaged in against Iran but are nearly defenseless against ourselves (Col. Hammes wrote this in 2006, and in it he predicted China attacking the U.S. economically by using its hackers against American industries to steal information, thereby hurting our economy. I'm writing this in May 2014, and that story was in the news a few days ago.) If you're interested in military affairs and/or history, read this book.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Dr. Phoenix

    Definitely worth the investment of time. While this title began with a very promising start, it devolved with an increasing lack of fact and an increase in unsubstantiated opinion. Additionally there is a suspicious odor of noxious anti-Semitism which stains the pages. Hammes increasingly becomes: Anti- technology Anti- Israeli Anti-Reality Anti -Logic Though some of his insights are remarkable and straight to the point there tends to be a strong undercurrent of dissatisfaction and pessimism. The read Definitely worth the investment of time. While this title began with a very promising start, it devolved with an increasing lack of fact and an increase in unsubstantiated opinion. Additionally there is a suspicious odor of noxious anti-Semitism which stains the pages. Hammes increasingly becomes: Anti- technology Anti- Israeli Anti-Reality Anti -Logic Though some of his insights are remarkable and straight to the point there tends to be a strong undercurrent of dissatisfaction and pessimism. The reader ends up questioning whether or not some personal disappointment (passed over for a Generals star perhaps) is not contributing to the acerbic barbs in the text. These comments (pp. 282-283 et al) accompanied by his calls for culling field grade officers might sound to some readers suspiciously like sour grapes. There is an insistence upon decentralization of the military decision making process and an emphasis upon allowing initiative and discretion at the lower level echelons. This certainly makes sense, but only up to a point. Such a move would require great systematic changes within the armed forces and I personally an uncertain if such a move could even be accomplished in the long run. To Hammes' credit he does suggest greater tactical and educational formation of lower level leaders, which would certainly be a pre-requisite. He also is a strong advocate of reality-based training (RBT) which he endows with the most unfortunate title of "free-play exercises." Also The author wants to do away with any type of quality control be what he refers to as "so-called experts." Such a drastic move would be an error in my opinion. He does make a sound point however, when speaking on experts, checking on experts ad infinitum. While he makes an excellent point upon the overreliance upon technological expertise at the expense of human tactical prowess, he tends to go a bit to far. His recommendations tend to entirely overlook and brush aside the possibility of a more traditional nation state level conflict. Since the book begins with very sound, balanced and logical conclusions the excess displayed later becomes even more marked. Additionally the virulent undercurrent reduced the legitimacy of the narrative being pushed forth. I gave the book 4 stars, simply because much of the material is definitely thought provoking and insightful when filtered out from the personal rhetoric. Concerning the Palestinian terrorist situation, Hammes provides over-simplistic and largely apologist based explanations, which have little credence and relevance to the actual situation on the ground. His statistical comparison of populations between Israel the Palestinians and the US, for instance, is biased as is much of his thinking. While certain sections such as that on technology and insurgency are well-presented and based on factual observations, others, such as the Intifada segments, lack proper insight and understanding of the reality. Attributing insurgent warfare to Mao-Tse-Tung is also somewhat of a gross simplification, given that this form of warfare has always existed. Mao did, perfect the strategy, however,as Hammes so rightfully points out, and set the stage for the current spate of 4GW conflicts. Conclusion: Certainly worth reading BUT, with a caveat; It requires keen awareness for author bias and a balanced view of reality in both military strategy and international affairs

  3. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    Col. Hammes is an exponent of what military theorists refer to as fourth-generation warfare (4GW). From my limited understanding of the topic, 4GW is a theoretical framework used to characterize the objectives and methods of a type of struggle which has mainly manifested itself in the 20th century as guerrilla warfare and terrorism. Some characteristics of 4GW include the prevalence of non-state actors; fluid, non-hierarchical, networked combatant organizations; long-term conflict, in terms of d Col. Hammes is an exponent of what military theorists refer to as fourth-generation warfare (4GW). From my limited understanding of the topic, 4GW is a theoretical framework used to characterize the objectives and methods of a type of struggle which has mainly manifested itself in the 20th century as guerrilla warfare and terrorism. Some characteristics of 4GW include the prevalence of non-state actors; fluid, non-hierarchical, networked combatant organizations; long-term conflict, in terms of decades rather than years; the primacy of patience and survival in such conflicts; the use of unconventional tactics such as psychological attacks on a state's populace and leadership. Hammes describes a number of 20th century conflicts in this context: the Chinese civil war; the Indochina wars; the Nicaraguan civil war; the Palestinian intifada; and of course the wars in Afghanistan and the current Iraqi insurgency. Hammes writes in clear, to-the-point prose, and the book is a quick read. His discussion of 4GW is not 100% original or terribly exciting, but I found it a decent, light introduction to the idea for those unacquainted with military theory. Parts of the book were repetitive--I recall re-reading several times the well-worn arguments about the "political, social, economic, and technological factors" which induce the evolution of warfare. Furthermore, I think the argument lost focus near the end of the book, where Hammes discusses the contemporary problems the coalition (er, I mean the US) is facing in Iraq. Nevertheless, the book has been fairly influential on the US military and counter-terrorism establishment and apparently it has even had some effect on modifying the tactics being used in Iraq. Given its brevity I'd consider it a worthwhile read for those interested in contemporary military affairs.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Christopher

    I expected so much more from this book. Hammes contends that we are engaged in a new form of warfare--4th Generation War (4GW). And its the only type of warfare that has ever defeated major western powers. Ok, fine, I can accept that argument, but Hammes never MAKES that argument. 4GW is basically just insurgencies with less centralized information networks and decision-making. It's all fine and good to tell me that Mao, Ho Chi Min, et al varied their approaches to asymmetrical warfare, and it's I expected so much more from this book. Hammes contends that we are engaged in a new form of warfare--4th Generation War (4GW). And its the only type of warfare that has ever defeated major western powers. Ok, fine, I can accept that argument, but Hammes never MAKES that argument. 4GW is basically just insurgencies with less centralized information networks and decision-making. It's all fine and good to tell me that Mao, Ho Chi Min, et al varied their approaches to asymmetrical warfare, and it's fine to tell me that they won (which we know). But Hammes never adequately explains HOW their variations of 4GW were able to win. Basically, if Hammes finds a successful insurgency, then it's 4GW. Which is a bit presumptive. What's more frustrating is that he mentions in passing the fact that the British HAVE been successful against various insurgencies but never explains how or why in any depth. Instead we, get four chapters on various successful insurgencies (i.e. "4GW") and then a couple chapters railing against the DODs procurement and evaluation systems. Beyond that though, Hammes never really offers an approach for how the non-insurgent (i.e. nation-state) should combat or engage in 4GW. A better analysis would have been defining 4GW and then applying it to various historical scenarios to see its impact/effectiveness. A very frustrating and overrated book.

  5. 4 out of 5

    David

    A good book by Marine Colonel Thomas Hammes. He demonstrates that the kind of warfare being fought now in Afganistan, Iraq, and Pakishastan is not really new - it is an evolutionary step from a type of borderless warfare that has been developing for many years. He asserts that military leaders must study the history of warfare and project from that study to understand what is going on now, and to prepare for whatever is coming next. Hammes says the Pentagon is stuck in a model of warfare no one i A good book by Marine Colonel Thomas Hammes. He demonstrates that the kind of warfare being fought now in Afganistan, Iraq, and Pakishastan is not really new - it is an evolutionary step from a type of borderless warfare that has been developing for many years. He asserts that military leaders must study the history of warfare and project from that study to understand what is going on now, and to prepare for whatever is coming next. Hammes says the Pentagon is stuck in a model of warfare no one is fighting any more. He calls for a number of radical revisions to the way we think about, prepare for, and fight wars. He suggests some dramatic shifts in the ways officers are trained, assigned to duty, and evaluated. This would make excellent required reading for all military officers and for those who fund their undertakings. It is also an important book for anyone who would understand what is going on in the world.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Corto

    I bought and read this when it came out. I felt there was very little new or illuminating in it- however, at the time I was just glad professional military people were out there offering a counter to the hi-tech Rumsfeld Doctrine, as the Neo-COINs (ha! I just made that up!) were in their infancy and barely had a voice. CNAS didn't even exist then if I'm correct. I remember thinking that "4GW" was just a rehash and repackaging of previous writing on counterinsurgency theory. Might give it a re-re I bought and read this when it came out. I felt there was very little new or illuminating in it- however, at the time I was just glad professional military people were out there offering a counter to the hi-tech Rumsfeld Doctrine, as the Neo-COINs (ha! I just made that up!) were in their infancy and barely had a voice. CNAS didn't even exist then if I'm correct. I remember thinking that "4GW" was just a rehash and repackaging of previous writing on counterinsurgency theory. Might give it a re-read.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Tim Martin

    _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 pol _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 that their strategic goals are unachievable or too costly for the perceived benefits. While 4GW can and does use military forces, it also uses economic and political tools as well. Very frustrating to Americans, it is low-tech, often manpower-intensive to counteract, and is fought not over months or years but decades. It is also the only type of war a superpower has ever lost (the U.S. in Vietnam, Lebanon and Somalia and the Soviets in Afghanistan) and the type that are going on now (the Russians in Chechnya and the U.S. in Iraq, Afghanistan, and against al-Qaeda). Hammes traced the evolution of 4GW through the years. Mao Tse-Tung was the first to write about and implement it, understanding the intensely political nature of insurgencies and how altering by political, social, and economic conditions one can overcome military weakness. He also understood the need to expand an insurgency overseas, to seek to drive away the allies and sponsors of one's opponent. Ho Chi Minh understood the importance of a war of attrition and working to weaken American patience and resolve. The first Palestinian Intifada made very clever use of the mass media, international networks, and a practically anonymous, networked leadership, nearly impossible to destroy, to counter the massive advantages the Israelis had, cleverly delivering via the media separate messages for the world and for the Israeli public. What is handicapping the U.S. in fighting 4GW opponents? Hammes devoted several chapters to this; factors include the extreme focus in the Defense Department on high-tech, fast-moving wars in its planning and "disregarding any action by an intelligent opponent to negate our technology," bureaucratic delays which limit the variety and timeliness of intelligence, the fact that our intelligence assets are still more geared towards other nation-states and not non-state actors, and our weakness in the field of human intelligence. Hammes did provide a number of solutions. We need to reduce the walls between bureaucracies, to allow networks of experts on a variety of fields, civilian and military, to exchange ideas and work to solve problems. Build fewer high-tech weapon systems and focus more on officer training on language, history, culture, and areas studies rather than mainly technological issues. We have too many officers serving staff duties, spending too little time in the field getting practical experience; get more out in the field, where they need along with their men longer tours, less high turnover of key personnel, and more free-play exercises in realistic settings. We need to have fewer heavy ground forces such as tanks and artillery, more "flexible, multi-mission, medium-weight forces" suitable for "forward presence, quick response, nation building, and peacekeeping." Emphasis should be on close-air support, military police training, "aggressive, round-the-clock saturation patrolling" (getting to know the locals, living with them and training indigenous forces), civil affairs officers (it is vital to also tackle the economic and social problems of a country), unified command structures where political, military, and humanitarian organizations coordinate closely in a country, an extensive use of human intelligence, and refocusing the National Guard exclusively on military police-work and homeland security and deleting its heavy reserve units.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Susheil Kumar

    The book starts with a lot of promise. The author commences with nature of war and explains previous generations of warfare.the research by author is commendable and literally gives list to students of military history about books to read. He has analysed the evolution/ advent of 4GW as a complete war and not just an adjunct to main war since Mao. ( I wonder if Mahatma Gandhi was doing the same in India) The refinements or modifications according to the situations faced by fourth generation warr The book starts with a lot of promise. The author commences with nature of war and explains previous generations of warfare.the research by author is commendable and literally gives list to students of military history about books to read. He has analysed the evolution/ advent of 4GW as a complete war and not just an adjunct to main war since Mao. ( I wonder if Mahatma Gandhi was doing the same in India) The refinements or modifications according to the situations faced by fourth generation warriors in Vietnam, Intifada, Sandinistas are analysed nicely. The author brings home the point of 4GW in Iraq and Afghanistan correctly. As the book was written in 2005( though the publication date is shown as 2017) events till that time has given. Later the author analyses the characteristics of 4GW and way ahead for his country( target audience for the book). The book however is relevant to other countries as well. Last three to four chapters are rather boring and repetitive at places. A number of changes have come in after the book was authored. It is surely a good primer for students of military history. I suggest an updated edition by the publishing house may be considered where past 15 years may be included for students.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Ryan

    Hammes presents an interesting model to consider, but I don't think it's ultimately all that useful in steering our foriegn policy. His overarching argument, after he describes his model, seems to be that we should focus primarily on 4GW/COIN because it's easier to transition to LSCO from COIN than the other way around, but he really doesn't explain why that would be. It's doubtful that doing so would be a good idea, but regardless the DoD has gone in the complete opposite direction towards grea Hammes presents an interesting model to consider, but I don't think it's ultimately all that useful in steering our foriegn policy. His overarching argument, after he describes his model, seems to be that we should focus primarily on 4GW/COIN because it's easier to transition to LSCO from COIN than the other way around, but he really doesn't explain why that would be. It's doubtful that doing so would be a good idea, but regardless the DoD has gone in the complete opposite direction towards great power competition. He did make a salient point about the need to fix the military's broken personnel management system. Fortunately, it's starting to improve, but it still has a long way to go and it's possible that the next generation of Pentagon leadership could crush the changes before they really take root. I think it's notable that although this was released in the early 2000's there are no reviews of this book by foreign policy media to be found on the internet. Even though he's still doing speaking engagements and teaching at univerisities, evidently no one really took his ideas seriously.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jack

    The aspects of fourth generation war are true. A dispersed guerrilla type enemy with a multitude of international players. 4GW is the only proven successful option for an opponent of a superpower. The Soviets faced the Mujahedan, we faced the Viet Cong and NVA, the British the Malaysians and the Boers, and now we face Iraq and Afghanistan. These 4GW wars are long. Decades long. Much longer than the fickle American public opinion. The author also explains that our force structure is unsuited to f The aspects of fourth generation war are true. A dispersed guerrilla type enemy with a multitude of international players. 4GW is the only proven successful option for an opponent of a superpower. The Soviets faced the Mujahedan, we faced the Viet Cong and NVA, the British the Malaysians and the Boers, and now we face Iraq and Afghanistan. These 4GW wars are long. Decades long. Much longer than the fickle American public opinion. The author also explains that our force structure is unsuited to fighting the guerilla or terrorist or insurgent in a city. We have a penchant for super weapons that cost billions to wield against a bearded Al Qaddafi with his cellphone and AK-47. I agree but we cannot totally dispose our heavy forces. Also our defense sector is geared for political largesse and the big government contracts. The force structure could be geared to civil affairs but that is not how folks get promoted. We like our quick high tech wars. But will we fight them again. Maybe.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

    Useful introduction to the idea that unconventional warfare/counter-insurgency requires a long-view. A lot of interesting case studies from the 20th century which are good primers in their own right. Reading this almost two decades after it was published, I can see how many of his arguments have been adopted by the Army in some form (360 degree evaluations, SFABs, mission command doctrine). Not sure how well his entire argument holds up, based on America’s ‘forever wars’ period; the rise of tech Useful introduction to the idea that unconventional warfare/counter-insurgency requires a long-view. A lot of interesting case studies from the 20th century which are good primers in their own right. Reading this almost two decades after it was published, I can see how many of his arguments have been adopted by the Army in some form (360 degree evaluations, SFABs, mission command doctrine). Not sure how well his entire argument holds up, based on America’s ‘forever wars’ period; the rise of technologically savvy competitors; or how decentralization and info-driven methods have actually exacerbated America’s national security challenge with disinformation warfare.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Ben

    Dated, but certainly useful. I would not consider this as "timeless" (er, well aged?) as Galula's "Counterinsurgency Warfare", but it also does not try to supplant that work by any measure. Ultimately it is a good book to bring you up to speed on the evolution of asymmetric warfare, but will seem simple for someone who studies the subject seriously. Dated, but certainly useful. I would not consider this as "timeless" (er, well aged?) as Galula's "Counterinsurgency Warfare", but it also does not try to supplant that work by any measure. Ultimately it is a good book to bring you up to speed on the evolution of asymmetric warfare, but will seem simple for someone who studies the subject seriously.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Scottnshana

    I can only imagine that this book, when it arrived in 2006, pissed a lot of people off. I think, though, that Col Hammes was looking around at the fact that the U.S. was deeply involved in both Iraq and Afghanistan and that he, as a career Marine and military intellectual (which he makes clear in the book is a term that we should probably decouple from people who claim the title by virtue of their degrees in engineering) needed to point out some truths ascertained by people who are both passiona I can only imagine that this book, when it arrived in 2006, pissed a lot of people off. I think, though, that Col Hammes was looking around at the fact that the U.S. was deeply involved in both Iraq and Afghanistan and that he, as a career Marine and military intellectual (which he makes clear in the book is a term that we should probably decouple from people who claim the title by virtue of their degrees in engineering) needed to point out some truths ascertained by people who are both passionate about the history of arms and cognizant of what gunpowder smells like. Fourth Generation War (4GW), he argues, is what we're in now, and we're not going to either kill or tron (he actually has a chapter called "Technology: Not a Panacaea") our way through. We are in trouble, he writes, when we "simply disregard any action taken by an intelligent, creative opponent to negate our technology. In fact, [we] seem to reduce the enemy to a series of inanimate targets to be serviced. He who services the most targets the fastest must win." There are, he points out, in 4GW, a whole list of variables--and anyone writing out the equation can't possibly account for them. What we need instead is a historical review of warfare's progress to this point. While Clausewitz is the start point, Hammes puts the weight of 4GW study on Mao's guerrilla war--which sets the cornerstone for his subsequent chapters on Vietnam, the Sandinistas,two Intifadas, Afghanistan, and finally Iraq. If, for instance, we take the Clausewitzian idea that "All military actions have value only if they contribute to the political goal of the government," we can understand how Ho Chi Minh matched up his OODA Loop to the ones in both Paris and Washington. "Ho understood that the U.S. center of gravity was our political will. He used the impact of Tet to attack [it]... The U.S. government did not seem to understand that the perception of what happened in Tet was more important than what really happened. Even worse, the government had squandered its credibility with the press and, through them, with the U.S. public." War melts down to politics and Hammes is not the first to demonstrate that the center of gravity in an insurgency is people. In his chapters on the Intifadas, he argues that all politics is local (i.e., Arafat and his buds sitting in Tunis could not effectively understand or lead it, but the municipal Palestinian leaders were very effective in motivating and negotiating). While the author elucidates the 4GW ineptitude of people like Arafat and LBJ's Best and Brightest, however, his evaluation of 4GW's 2006 iteration is no less critical. "The Pentagon's efforts to avoid discussing the type of war we are fighting could not be more diametrically opposed to Clausewitz's caution that the single act of determining the type of war one is to engage in is the supreme act of the statesman and commander. Rather than identifying the war they were really in, the Bush administration continued to denigrate the resistance in Iraq as merely the aftermath of the short, decisive war they had planned." By marrying up IEDs with a deliberate campaign to both push international aid organizations out of Iraq and intimidate Iraqi "swing voters", the insurgents were pretty effective (I would argue that 4GW thinkers like Petraeus and McChrystal were necessary to counter this). 4GW, he argues, not only assails the counterinsurgent's political will; it is also networked and long-term. The insurgent's Information Ops campaign sends 3 separate messages--"to his supporters, another to the mass of the undecided population (the aforementioned "swing voters"), and a third to the coalition decision makers." To assail this campaign, he writes, "We not only have to win battles, we have to fill the vacuum behind them," and Hammes offers some solutions toward the end of the book on how to adapt to this task. The DoD, he says, needs to budget for 4GW and to groom leaders to fight it--military leaders who can thrive and take the fight to the enemy in an environment commonly known as Centralized Control/Decentralized Execution or Auftragstaktik: "We should emphasize a system that increases flexibility rather than centralization. We should leave the decisions and initiative to the correct level: the lowest possible." We therefore need people educated in chaos theory to augment their training for situations more narrowly defined; these are the leaders we need to groom for the wars we're in now, he argues. This is how the Wehrmacht rolled through France in 1940 and, conversely, this is how the Palestinians could have met more of their goals in the Intifada (again, once Arafat got belatedly into it things went off the rails, according to Hammes). So "The Sling and the Stone" made some prescient observations a decade ago by applying Clausewitz, Mao, and Boyd, among others, to modern conflict; there are also some poignant but doable suggestions here on how the U.S. can effectively adapt to it. I would guess that he knew the acerbic response the book would garner and the types of professionals who would provide it. Adaptation is often the hard road to follow, though, and I think that as a Marine and USNA graduate, Hammes knew that, too. Recommend.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Salai Ni Htun Aung

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Good

  15. 5 out of 5

    Chris Boette

    I had more I wanted to say when I started reading this book months ago, but entropy being what it is, energy on the subject has waned... To start: The author states at the beginning of the text that he is a military man, and not an academic. Over the course of his career, he spent much time studying history and contemporary events to gain a greater understanding of the war in which the United States is embroiled. Despite his time spent in academia, the author retains an easy-to-understand writing I had more I wanted to say when I started reading this book months ago, but entropy being what it is, energy on the subject has waned... To start: The author states at the beginning of the text that he is a military man, and not an academic. Over the course of his career, he spent much time studying history and contemporary events to gain a greater understanding of the war in which the United States is embroiled. Despite his time spent in academia, the author retains an easy-to-understand writing style that follows the old essay-writing adage I learned in grade school: In the intro, tell 'em what you're going to tell 'em. In the body, tell 'em. & in the conclusion, tell 'em what you told 'em. Although this format could get redundant, it allows for the information to be drilled into the reader's head to be sure that they clearly understand Hammes's points and history lessons. Any misunderstanding of what the Colonel is proposing must be willful ignorance on the reader's part. To continue: The book is divided into History & its Analysis, and then Proposals. I learned much -- and was able to follow along much more easier -- in the History & Analysis sections, learning about the Soviets in Afghanistan, history of Al-Qaeda [The Base, in English:], and how changing economic, societal, technological, and political conditions lead to changes in warfare. They conclusions made were generally of the sort that feel like common sense after one understands them. The Proposals, unfortunately, will probably never be heeded by those in the Pentagon. Earlier this year, Gates expressed a desire to reduce the Pentagon's bureaucracy so as to make it more efficient, one Proposal made by Hammes. This is akin to asking a beast to sever one of its many limbs. To conclude: Interesting read. Learned lots. On a personal level, glad to have finished another non-fiction book.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Ryan Holiday

    I'd meant to read this in 2007, right after Brave New War: The Next Stage of Terrorism and the End of Globalization (also recommended). I wish I had because the examples would been more current and I would have been better able to understand everything that's happened in the last three years. If you have basic education in military history and tactics, this is a good next step. The first half is a good review of the past, and the second half is a great primer on the present and the future. BNW i I'd meant to read this in 2007, right after Brave New War: The Next Stage of Terrorism and the End of Globalization (also recommended). I wish I had because the examples would been more current and I would have been better able to understand everything that's happened in the last three years. If you have basic education in military history and tactics, this is a good next step. The first half is a good review of the past, and the second half is a great primer on the present and the future. BNW is an explanation of how decentralized groups utilize force in their war against the state. TSATS is an explanation of what 4th Generation Warfare is, why those groups are using it and how the states they fight are deliberately refusing to acknowledge that it's happening. Why? Because of the sunk costs involved in becoming experts at 3GW, and because fighting against a decentralized group means making decisions that removes power from their own hands (and think about how many bureaucracies have voted to deregulate themselves). One problem with the knowledge in these books: you realize that having it inherently precludes you from most discussions about politics and foreign policy, say, are you for the Iraq troop surge or against it. Such debates are framed in a way that both sides of the issue are already wrong since they fundamentally ignore the new realities of warfare. But you shouldn't read for those conversations anyway -- read because war, like pornography, tends to presage trends that will shape our daily life before they've trickled down to civilian society.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Timothy

    I picked this book up on the recommendation of a mentor prior to going to a developmental school. I really appreciated Hammes' approach towards framing his arguments and providing the history. I believe context matters and it doesn't seem like Hammes ignores the context. I learned SO much about modern military history - it wasn't detailed or very deep, but it provided me a superb jumping off point from which I could do further research. And it was readable - I truthfully did not want to put it d I picked this book up on the recommendation of a mentor prior to going to a developmental school. I really appreciated Hammes' approach towards framing his arguments and providing the history. I believe context matters and it doesn't seem like Hammes ignores the context. I learned SO much about modern military history - it wasn't detailed or very deep, but it provided me a superb jumping off point from which I could do further research. And it was readable - I truthfully did not want to put it down! I resonated with many of Hammes' assertions and recommendations about changes within the military: 360 degree evaluations, smaller headquarters, and a change of perspective and emphasis towards people to solve our next problem - not technology. I agree with him very much that we have too many technophiles in our military who look first and foremost to technology for a solution when there might be a simpler, less sophisticated, more resilient, more sustainable, and more cost effective solution. However, it wouldn't be leveraging technology. I agreed with Hammes on many points, which is reflected in my rating. However, I'll admit that it may also mean that, because I agreed with his assertions, I may not have criticized his arguments and logic as robustly as I could have. That said, the book's value to me largely stemmed from his discussions and expositions of previous conflicts which I found tremendously educational and informative. I'd recommend this book on anyone interested in an introductory book on modern warfare.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Samantha

    Though I didn't agree with everything Hammes had to say on the micro level (regarding Israel and Palestine, for example) on the macro level this was amazing. 4GW (fourth generation warfare, or warfare based on information rather than maneuver) is the form of warfare fought by conventionally inferior states, or nonstate actors. It is effective against superpowers in contemporary times because they are busy fighting 3GW, focused on technological superiority and winning battles. It makes a great de Though I didn't agree with everything Hammes had to say on the micro level (regarding Israel and Palestine, for example) on the macro level this was amazing. 4GW (fourth generation warfare, or warfare based on information rather than maneuver) is the form of warfare fought by conventionally inferior states, or nonstate actors. It is effective against superpowers in contemporary times because they are busy fighting 3GW, focused on technological superiority and winning battles. It makes a great deal of sense, even to a layman. Enemies of perceived occupying powers use low-tech methods and decentralized structures to fight their hierarchically structured enemies. Published in 2004, some of the ideas presented here may seem a bit dated, with "counterinsurgency" a word now integrated into at least the American discourse. Substitute "ISIS" for "Al-Qaeda" in Hammes' analysis of the latter organization and it's clear that the US does not understand, or is not prepared for, 4th generation warfare. Likewise, I wasn't convinced by the concept of the senders of the anthrax letters in Washington as "5GW." Those were an anomaly, 5GW will be something else. I doubt at this late date that the kind of dismantling of bureaucratic centralization Hammed calls for will have taken place. Our central failing, that of patience, is still much in evidence.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jared

    This book is a brief overview of the concepts of 4GW. It does not go into near enough depth as to the development or application of 4GW. At most I would recommend this book as a beginning introduction to the concepts. Most useful were several of the beginning chapters that add to the understanding one would gain from Reading "War of the Flea". Even greater were the ending chapters on how to reconfigure the US military and security establishment to confront 4GW. This was by far the most complete a This book is a brief overview of the concepts of 4GW. It does not go into near enough depth as to the development or application of 4GW. At most I would recommend this book as a beginning introduction to the concepts. Most useful were several of the beginning chapters that add to the understanding one would gain from Reading "War of the Flea". Even greater were the ending chapters on how to reconfigure the US military and security establishment to confront 4GW. This was by far the most complete and substantial section of the book. As the author mentions at one point, there are simply not enough pages to delve much deeper into the concept. I would have liked to see a more in-depth analysis of Palestinian Intifada 1 and the Al Aqsa Intifada. This was of the more thought provoking sections of the book for me. The author also was a bit light on employing 4GW analysis in the book. I would have liked to see a bit of a different structure. A substantial chapter on the tenants and rough outlines of 4GW as it is practiced today, and then examples from more modern time. The author left this more open, occasionally throwing in references to 4GW as topics came up. I may have simply not noticed, but I think an opportunity was wasted. All in all a good read.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Colleen

    An interesting concept, beaten to death over the course of an entire book rather than a concise academic paper. Cue the "oh right, that's what I hate about international relations theory" remembrances from college. Probably of significantly more interest if you are a member of the military. As a civilian, with less background in the Arab-Israeli background than I want, I soaked up the descriptions of the tactics of the first and second intifadas. The historical discussions of Mao, Vietnam, and t An interesting concept, beaten to death over the course of an entire book rather than a concise academic paper. Cue the "oh right, that's what I hate about international relations theory" remembrances from college. Probably of significantly more interest if you are a member of the military. As a civilian, with less background in the Arab-Israeli background than I want, I soaked up the descriptions of the tactics of the first and second intifadas. The historical discussions of Mao, Vietnam, and the Contras were all interesting in a case-study way. The Iraq example, of course, was incredibly dated (stopping in 2004). Sure, he was right that anti-coalition forces had an upper hand, but there wasn't too much material in that vein for him to explore at such an early date. I would be interested what Hammes would have to say about how and why the surge worked. If it had stopped after the second intifada, I would have given it a four.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Ben Vogel

    I think this would be a 5 star book for people invested in the success of the modern military. 4 stars for me as someone who knows a fair amount of military history but isn't super well versed on the issues of modern times. The author does an outstanding job of justifying his beliefs with historical examples of governments and militaries consistently fighting the current war with the mindset of the previous war. The author shows not only how this is common and understandable, but how it is fatall I think this would be a 5 star book for people invested in the success of the modern military. 4 stars for me as someone who knows a fair amount of military history but isn't super well versed on the issues of modern times. The author does an outstanding job of justifying his beliefs with historical examples of governments and militaries consistently fighting the current war with the mindset of the previous war. The author shows not only how this is common and understandable, but how it is fatally flawed again and again. I highly recommend this book despite it now being over a decade old. The conventional wisdom is not wise. Bureaucracy is guaranteed mediocrity. Future wars will rarely be successfully fought or avoided without careful consideration of many of the ideas presented in this book.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Gary Patton

    This is not a so-called "Christian book". However, regarding a Jesus Follower's "armour of God", outlined in Ephesians 6:10-19 (http://diigo.com/0jl35), some readers will be intrigued by what you can discover about the relationship between 'insurgency' and a Jesus Follower's warrior-interaction with and Jesus' commanded-response to present Spiritual Warfare in the short introduction to Col.Hammes' book. If you have any Muslim Friends or neighbours, you also will find helpful the author's insider- This is not a so-called "Christian book". However, regarding a Jesus Follower's "armour of God", outlined in Ephesians 6:10-19 (http://diigo.com/0jl35), some readers will be intrigued by what you can discover about the relationship between 'insurgency' and a Jesus Follower's warrior-interaction with and Jesus' commanded-response to present Spiritual Warfare in the short introduction to Col.Hammes' book. If you have any Muslim Friends or neighbours, you also will find helpful the author's insider-based comments on the reality of modern warfare and especially current, violent, Islamic jihad around the world.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Robert Bor

    Concerns the inability of the modern (US) military to deal with the new generation of warfare, consistently termed 4th Generation Warfare. The author goes forth to describe how a network-based approach trumps the traditional hierarchy-based approach. The goal of the book must have been to reach the brass in the Pentagon and make them repent. Did it work? Time will tell. A good read, which I found at least partly applicable to business organizations as well, especially the concept of networks vs h Concerns the inability of the modern (US) military to deal with the new generation of warfare, consistently termed 4th Generation Warfare. The author goes forth to describe how a network-based approach trumps the traditional hierarchy-based approach. The goal of the book must have been to reach the brass in the Pentagon and make them repent. Did it work? Time will tell. A good read, which I found at least partly applicable to business organizations as well, especially the concept of networks vs hierarchies.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Tom

    This was one of the books I read when I was undertaking my post graduate course in political science. It brilliantly explains 4GW and is recommended for those interested in insurgency and counter insurgency. I also remember listening to the authour give a talk on this subject and stating that Al Qaeda had referenced his book in communications. This should tell you something of the importance of understanding this theory and the warning it gives to democratic nation states in the need for adaptabi This was one of the books I read when I was undertaking my post graduate course in political science. It brilliantly explains 4GW and is recommended for those interested in insurgency and counter insurgency. I also remember listening to the authour give a talk on this subject and stating that Al Qaeda had referenced his book in communications. This should tell you something of the importance of understanding this theory and the warning it gives to democratic nation states in the need for adaptability in dealing with opponents who are playing poker when they are playing chess.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jeroen

    This book is a must-read for everyone interested in military history and the evolution of warfare. Although it lacks depth, which is understandable since it covers all forms of warfare since its inception, it describes the 4 generations of warfare superbly. Advantages and disadvantages of each generation are given as well as the factors which contributed to the creation of each generation. Also advisable for everyone who wants to understand why the great military nations sometimes fail in certain This book is a must-read for everyone interested in military history and the evolution of warfare. Although it lacks depth, which is understandable since it covers all forms of warfare since its inception, it describes the 4 generations of warfare superbly. Advantages and disadvantages of each generation are given as well as the factors which contributed to the creation of each generation. Also advisable for everyone who wants to understand why the great military nations sometimes fail in certain wars (e.g. the US in Vietnam and the USSR in Afghanistan).

  26. 4 out of 5

    John

    While I tend to disagree with the central premise that 4th Generation Warfare is something new that began with Mao, it does provide a useful framework for him to discuss the rest of his points, which I think are spot on. He's not the first to call for radical reform in US armed forces personnel policies, David Hackworth called for similar changes in the eighties, but he does show the dangers of sticking with our 19th Century personnel system while fighting 21st Century wars. While I tend to disagree with the central premise that 4th Generation Warfare is something new that began with Mao, it does provide a useful framework for him to discuss the rest of his points, which I think are spot on. He's not the first to call for radical reform in US armed forces personnel policies, David Hackworth called for similar changes in the eighties, but he does show the dangers of sticking with our 19th Century personnel system while fighting 21st Century wars.

  27. 4 out of 5

    The American Conservative

    'For at least a decade, Colonel Tom Hammes has been one of the Marine Corps’ leading intellectuals. His book The Sling and the Stone: On War in the 21st Century should be read by anyone who has an interest in Fourth Generation warfare (4GW).' Read the full review, "Two Intifidas and a Flawed Theory," on our website: http://www.theamericanconservative.co... 'For at least a decade, Colonel Tom Hammes has been one of the Marine Corps’ leading intellectuals. His book The Sling and the Stone: On War in the 21st Century should be read by anyone who has an interest in Fourth Generation warfare (4GW).' Read the full review, "Two Intifidas and a Flawed Theory," on our website: http://www.theamericanconservative.co...

  28. 5 out of 5

    John Schneider

    Hammes does an excellent job describing the evolution of warfare in the modern era as well as how fourth generation warfare presently operates. Once one grasps the basics of 4GW, many present day conflicts look very different and are much more understandable in terms of why they keep going on. I would recommend this book highly to any one who wants to understand how much conflict has changed since World War II.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Joe

    An analysis of modern warfare in the last 150 years and a critique of the follies of the American military industrial complex being utilized in real world application of political and military conflicts. In short, an effective military is about people and not the marvels of military technological advancement.

  30. 4 out of 5

    David Elkin

    Just finishing it up. Good start about 4th Generation Warfare, but it was written in 2004, so his information on how Iraq ended, and how Afghan has continued is not there. A readable book and one that deals with how to defeat the biggest and best military by guerilla warfare. Lot's of new names, but the style of fighting has been going on for most of our history. Work picking up. Just finishing it up. Good start about 4th Generation Warfare, but it was written in 2004, so his information on how Iraq ended, and how Afghan has continued is not there. A readable book and one that deals with how to defeat the biggest and best military by guerilla warfare. Lot's of new names, but the style of fighting has been going on for most of our history. Work picking up.

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