What many people who were either upset about my observations concerning Dallas or are completely mystified by my assertion of the need for the US police to demilitarize and deescalate fail to grasp is that the current approach of intimidation and overwhelming force is absolutely doomed to failure in the situation in which they find themselves.
While Bill Lind’s perspective on the police is, understandably, outdated, it only underlines the vital importance of the police ceasing to act more like occupying military force and less like the traditional Officer Friendly.
Remember, this is the guy who literally wrote the book on USMC tactics, and if we apply his observations, it is eminently clear that the US police are doing nothing more than setting themselves up for defeat in the long term.
From “Understanding Fourth Generation War”, 4th Generation War Handbook.
In Fourth Generation warfare, the weak often have more moral power than the strong. One of the first people to employ the power of weakness was Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi’s insistence on non-violent tactics to defeat the British in India was and continues to be a classic strategy of Fourth Generation war. When the British responded to Indian independence rallies with violence, they immediately lost the moral war.
Operations David and Goliath show a strong military force, with almost no limits on the amount of violence it can apply to a situation, versus a very weak irregular force. The weaker force has the moral high ground because it is so weak. No one likes bullies using their physical superiority in order to win at anything, and unless we are extremely careful in how we apply our physical combat power, we soon come across as a bully, i.e. Goliath.
Most important, we see the central role of de-escalation. In most Fourth Generation situations, our best hope of winning lies not in escalation but in de-escalation (the “Hama model” discussed in the next chapter relies on escalation, but political factors will usually rule this approach out). De-escalation is how police are trained to handle confrontations. From a policeman’s perspective, escalation is almost always undesirable. If a police officer escalates a situation, he may even find himself charged with a crime. This reflects society’s desire for less, not more, violence. Most people in foreign societies share this desire. They will not welcome foreigners who increase the level of violence around them.
For state militaries in Fourth Generation situations, the policeman is a more appropriate model than the soldier. Soldiers are taught that, if they are not achieving the result they want, they should escalate: call in more troops, more firepower, tanks, artillery, and air support. In this respect, men in state-armed forces may find their own training for war against other state-armed forces works against them. They must realize that in Fourth Generation war, escalation almost always works to the advantage of their opponents. We cannot stress this point too strongly. State militaries must develop a “de-escalation mindset,” along with supporting tactics and techniques.
There may be situations where escalation on the tactical level is necessary to obtain de-escalation on the operational and strategic levels. In such situations, state-armed forces may want to have a special unit, analogous to a police SWAT team, that appears quickly, uses the necessary violence, then quickly disappears. This helps the state servicemen with whom local people normally interact to maintain their image as helpful friends.
Proportionality is another requirement if state militaries want to avoid being seen as bullies. Using tanks, airpower, and artillery against lightly armed guerrillas not only injures and kills innocent civilians and destroys civilian property, it also works powerfully at the moral level of war to increase sympathy for the state’s opponents. That, in turn, helps our Fourth Generation enemies gain local and international support, funding and recruits.
De-escalation and proportionality in turn require state-armed forces to be able to empathize with the local people. If they regard the local population with contempt, this contempt will carry over into their actions. Empathy cannot simply be commanded; developing it must be part of training…. Each of these points touches a central characteristic of Fourth Generation war. If we fail to understand even one of them, and act so as to contradict it, we will set ourselves up for defeat.
Remember, for any state military, Fourth Generation wars are easy to lose and very challenging to win. This is true despite the state military’s great superiority over its Fourth Generation opponents at the physical level of war. Indeed, to a significant degree, it is true because of that superiority. In most Fourth Generation wars, state-armed forces end up defeating themselves.
What is very difficult for most people, even those with considerable military experience, to understand is that 4GW is a different type of war and it utilizes very different metrics. As Lind and LtCol Thiele point out, the central dilemma of 4GW is that what works for you on the physical level often works against you at the moral level.
“It is therefore very easy to win all the tactical engagements in a Fourth Generation conflict yet still lose the war.”
The US police are in very much in the same position as a state military occupying a foreign nation. Therefore, 4GW principles and tactics very clearly apply to the situation.
One can summarize the core anti-4GW strategy in a single sentence: Either kill them all or don’t kill anyone.