Book Review: 4th Generation Warfare Handbook, William Lind

3.6 / 5.0

Bottom Line: Good read from a great thinker. This is an important book for people trying to understand 4th Generation War (4GW). Light on coverage of the internet, immigration, corporations, and NGOs, which I believe are key pieces of the 4GW battlefield.


A most appropriate title for this book would be “The Infantry Commander’s Guide to 4th Generation War.” The meat of 4GW Handbook is discussion of the shortcomings of traditional military forces in the information age, and how commanders and senior NCOs might retool those forces for a 4GW fight.

William S Lind is one of the preeminent military thinkers of our age. In January 2004, Lind correctly called that the Iraq war would be a loss for the US, and would set in motion a chain of disasters for the west:

Will Saddam’s capture mark a turning point in the war in Iraq? Don’t count on it. Few resistance fighters have been fighting for Saddam personally.

I suggest that the war we have seen thus far is merely a powder train leading to the magazine. The magazine is Fourth Generation war by a wide variety of Islamic non-state actors, directed at America and Americans (and local governments friendly to America) everywhere. The longer America occupies Iraq, the greater the chance that the magazine will explode. If it does, God help us all.

In the appendix of 4GW Handbook, Lind gives readers a brief explanation of the four generations of war. In short, the first generation begins with the nation-state, after the Peace of Westphalia. Tight control of formations governs the battlefield. Second generation war came about as a result of industrialization. In this generation of war, nation-states use artillery and aircraft to bombard enemies prior to ground assaults.

Third generation war is the tactics of Rommel, Patton, and Forrest. They key is mobility. Third generation commanders use their mobility to cut off enemies, and to rapidly change the battlefield. The United States military fancies itself a third generation force. Lind argues, successfully, that the US military is in fact a second generation force.

4GW is modern war for the information age. The Vietnam war was a preview of this confusing type of war: perception beats reality. The bomb is 1/5th of the fight, the Tweets and social media posts afterward are 4/5th’s the battle. But the elevation of propaganda over reality really misses the big point of 4GW.

4GW: Total War

4GW is the making of every single aspect of life a battlefield. Much as every aspect of our lives has been politicized by partisans, in the fourth generation of war, everything is an act of war. It’s vicious and nasty, and debases us all. Having a baby is an act of war, because it slightly alters the balance of power between two groups. Boycotts are an act of war to punish those who think differently.

Some parties now use the law, once considered a way to ensure fairness in society, to punish one another. Rival groups use internet mobs to create controversies and chase one another off the digital battlefield. 4GW is one part guerrilla warfare, one part terrorism, one part Sharia-style population control, one part Rules for Radicals, and one part 1984. 4GW is low intensity war, everywhere.

Lind’s book focuses on the military aspect, and how commanders can avoid the poor optics of well-equipped militaries slaughtering freedom fighters. At times, the book feels like a primer on counterinsurgency for infantry commanders.

Where the book falls short is in discussing the unique battlefield of the internet. Lind also spends very little space on non-state actors, global governance organizations, and big business. Overall, the book is a worthwhile read from a truly great and fearless mind in the world of military strategy.

17 Replies to “Book Review: 4th Generation Warfare Handbook, William Lind”

  1. Indeed. Great work. By a great critical thinker.
    You can’t read too much of this stuff.

    Did you read Victoria!
    In fact, as you say in 4th GWH it is short, his VICTORIA! fills that void in many ways.
    Mr. Lind offers the first half free on his blog. I have it on Kindle.

    The scene at Dartmouth and the Roman Gladiators is nothing short of sublime. He has some really great characters, Prussians, Philosopher Warriors, Old Lady Sunday Go To Church insurgents, Retro history family units. Some great left hand humor.

    I grew up in NH. A lot of what happens is plausible. Sure makes me want to boogie back the second I get a wife Ben Comee and Capt. Stark are back. 4th Generation War got a pretty good boost starting in Stark NH and what became known as Rogers Rangers during the French Indian Wars. But you probably know that.

    There is a priceless work I think you would find of great value. Ben Comee A Tale of Rogers Rangers, 1758-59 A first hand account by Ben Comee, who joined Capt Stark and went on to fight up into Quebeck on an interdiction mission to fight it out with the large Indian tribe fighting for the French.
    It don’t get any better small unit infantry combat then this in my understanding. These are the guys who went on to fight in the Revolution and made the difference.

    There is another masterpiece, this unto and during the Revolution. Talk about going against historical convention. Its a look at the nuts and bolts of the patriots verses the loyalists, how the 4th generation warfare, pre violent stage, (not so much as it turns out) and the actual conduct off the war. The usual historical characters are pretty much absent. And quite a few who we have heard of but because of the long line of revisionists have memory holed or whitewashed so much history and its actors, who show up in accounts which are profound and will change your whole perspective of the war thru 4th Generation war narrative. In fact much of what is missing in Lind’s take, though he does talk about those aspects frequently in other venues and works, is here for the taking. Its rich. There’s even some accounts of the battles where the Americans finally get to fight 4th generation war and suck the Tory’s Army right into some great battles, which is what actually turned the war and saved the Colonies. Some great names are prevalent. Gen E. Lee’s old man was quite the 4th G Warrior. The pivotal battles take place in the Smokey Mountains up into Virginia, and are a precious gem for us students of things “Appalachian Redoubt”. There are some really surprising allies of the Patriots. Fills in a lot of blanks. Great accounts of colonial agitprop and propaganda efforts by the Patriots. The “Phamplet War”, a lot of “terrorism” and insurgency ala Colonial style. How the Americans played a really dangerous game of loyalty to the King while seriously mind jobbing the Tories and Parliament.
    We got nothing in regards to real politick compared to the Colonial Patriots. They where playing for huge table stakes.

    The True History of Thew American Revolution, by Sydney George Fisher

    I got both for like a .99 cents if I remember on Amazon.

    Started another of the Kindle historical books they have for .99cents, about Patrick Henry. Amazing dude. I believe if not for Henry we wouldn’t be American’s. Seriously. I looked for awhile before deciding which account/bibliography to read. Intent was to avoid the revisionists and clueless. I think I found a worthy one with Patrick Henry by Moses Colt Taylor
    Far better than I hoped. Amazing guy. The Declaration of Independence, and Patrick Henry to me are the penultimate components of the success of the revolution.
    It is a good read due to it delves into the politics of the day, glimpses of how scripture, and prudence where so priceless to us, how classic education these guys had changed the entire Greco/Roman Christian West at least in regards to Rule of Law, its idea. How it was a truly enormous leap, as Andrew Skousen termed it so well, The 5000 Year Leap.


    Max Velocity wrote two excellent small unit infantry combat tactics manuals in 4th G action novel form. I think Max did a bang up job of incorporating, in detail, and exciting narrative of first hand combat, the nuts and bolts of SUT for civilians, how a resistance force could possibly operate in a SHTF marxian dystopia. There’s everything in the two books. Max begins with how we all could very easily find ourselves, and would be reluctant resistance fighters. He adapts an entire company of rag tag ex, current, mutinous and civilian warriors into a keen fighting outfit, waging 4th G war, and Insurgency harassment of the enemy. Lot of tactics, everything he teaches in his SUT courses. Much from his own military career as a Brit special forces, them after he immigrates to America, he joins the US special forces, then becomes a combat medic, then a contractor. Max did time in Northern Ireland running a company I think as a LT, got armor and anti armor experience also.
    Its great reading the books. I live in WV, know the areas his stories take place, and have taken courses at his school. Max is scrupulously honest and straight in your face about it. Has a huge heart. I got a huge amount out of his writing. You can read them multiple times, they are so instructional for a civilian like me they are a absolute must if your a partisan in any way.

  2. I imagine Bill Lind has to be cautious of how much he does say; to whom, and when: also known as the truth, because in this world that is proscribed by so many factions of the political/ruling class. He sure seems to live a couple of lives in that respect.

    I believe we need all the insights tactics strategy and politics where we can get them and take the best of those things and put them to good use. If we are to save what needs and should be saved, and are able to overcome the array of adversaries for all the myriad of reasons they are attempting to destroy the great western Christian culture of us dirt people known as bitter clingers and deplorable’s among the pejoratives of those who presume to rule over us or genocide us.
    Nobody is coming to save us, and I know you and me and others understand the imperatives of that. But it must be said and often. All we have is each other. Which is a comforting thing to me, because I believe though it is a plurality which hasn’t realized it is one we are a Legion, we become a formidable and audacious Legion when we have that zeitgeist. Which looks like it is happening to a certain extent.

    4th Generation war is the war of hearts and minds, and if winning the minds is a science winning the hearts is an art.
    I much prefer the art of the stoics for threshing the wheat from the chaff so to say, and history, real history unrevised, though it is wise to understand what the revisionist revise because that is knowing your enemy.

    Diversity is dress rehearsal for class/race war. Political correctness is the assassination of our western english language and its Latin foundations, in order to deny us the communication elements of becoming that plurality, that Legion. Those of us who reject the double think of the hive mind of the human extinction movement outright are existential enemies, we best be learning and applying the foundations of 4th G war, we aint winning any other way. If there’s two ways about that I’m ignorant of the other form of effective redress and resistance. $th G is all we have all we are getting. Though it is nothing to scoff at or complain about. It is very effective when there is lots of territory 4th G can hold and use its resources.

    Thats another critical component of 4th G not discussed much. Look at Daesh Caliphate, the moment it began to capture and hold territory it became a “legitimate” entity where prior it wasn’t in no uncertain terms. Once it had territory it was orders of magnitude more difficult to defeat, where prior, a full well led infantry combat battalion and all the A-10’s available could probably have wiped it out in a few weeks.

    There’s an essay I’ve read a number of times and reference it often in my pondering things, because it tells the tale of the leviathan, of the western and eastern variety, as in large nation states against the “insurgent”, really the indigenous people of a mountain country, after all, who is the real “insurgent” when an outside tyrannical entity invades your country?
    Within this work, it seems unbeknownst to the author in certain aspects, though I haven’t been able to be sure the author is unaware of all the underlying tells given, in an essay about the materiel superiority and political/ideological agenda of a 2nd Gen military fighting natural 4th G warriors, the G’s ideology not withstanding, the authors uncovers a gold mine of 4th G warfare in great relative detail. Did he reveal these tells about the large nation states shortcoming do to their propensity of 2nd G warfare deliberately, or by an act of omission instead of commission, or did he attempt to make it look like innocent conflating, or was he hedging?
    You have to read it, its quite a piece of work by Major Edward B. Westermann, his ‘THE LIMITS OF SOVIET AIRPOWER: THE BEAR VERSUS THE MUJAHIDEEN IN AFGHANISTAN, 1979-1989’

    It is an examination of 4th G warfare verses 2nd G in no uncertain terms. The political and cultural conflict within is most enlightening to me and speaks volumes in my efforts to understand where we are heading in that respect.

  3. I will be reading the article soon. The theme is remarkably consistent across wars… air power struggles to actually finish wars. In some 4GW instances, it is actually counterproductive. And there is often a low tech solution to defeat high tech systems.

  4. I hope it will be very interesting to you. It is very influential for me. It helped me quite a bit in understanding 4th G. At each reading more is revealed. Love to have a conversation with you about it sometime.
    Seems to me it is one of the finest pieces on 4th G war. Its rich with insights for a layman. Notable how Westermann goes about the subject. Often wonder also in what ways the author if any is influenced by Col. Boydd’s theories.
    Yet as Lind remarks often, it does not seem to have much effect on certain elements within the thinking of the .mil.
    It strikes if it had, they would be building and employing A-10’s, training corps of forward controllers embedded with small unit infantry, by the trainload, for how the world is turning. Maybe it is a good thing it is not. Winning seems it is not what it is about today, on high. Good thing maybe, as those who use the military for ulterior reasons will eventually be bringing home, if they have their way, that which they use as politik as other means.
    Which in a few ways appears it was for a certain 8 years at least, pre-positioning.
    Free Pineland! if you catch my drift.

  5. PS, the subject of outside resources providing high tech anti air items, as in the Russian invasion, is something I ponder, yet no one talks about I know of.
    I once raised the prospect of Israeli supplied materiel as a possible candidate state, in a forum discussion and the wildfire of preposterous thinking on my part became a wild fire of controversy and derision.
    Though looking back the forum was rife with agent provocateurs and resistance is futile trolls doing their best to sow doubt and discontent.
    Matt Bracken makes mention of this of the north west redoubt in his EFAD trilogy.
    I figure with the resources at hand and ingenuity American’s are capable of, there could be an organic production of capable anti-air/armor devices.

    It all sure gets complicated in a hurry.

  6. I cannot get comments to just automatically approve. It’s really frustrating. I am halfway through Victoria, and you are right. It fills the void. I like the learning style as well. The book is basically dozens of small vignette lessons. The point isn’t mechanical, dry, doctrine, but rather an illustrative anecdote that people can easily imagine and transfer to other situations. It’s well done so far.

  7. AA defense is certainly desirable. In it’s absence, another option is to go low-tech. The use of camo and tactics can negate airpower. I leave the details as an exercise to the reader 😉

  8. Your blog is Word Press platformed? There’s some glitches I can’t workaround. I’m just grateful its a platform which hasn’t been converged. Yet.
    WP always has had bugs in it seems like. In 2007 began writing as a citizen journalist for an online newspaper, we used WP’s commercial publishing platform, feels like a million years ago, I remember a number of features regularly got funky acting. It must be complicated working around all the software patents.
    Really glad you like it. Some excellent tongue in cheek humor, and cautionary tales too.
    The Dartmouth vignette is sublime.
    I really enjoy the whole Prussian thing, it is pretty cool, a constant across a lot of Lind’s work. You see it in his blog posts. He’s definitely influenced by a classical education.

  9. I have thought of making a 4GW discussion group on FreeZoxee. Maybe you should do it since you have more expertise than most. Thoughts?

  10. WP is good, but some bugs are frustrating. I didn’t care for Lind’s cartoonish depiction of The South. Otherwise, it’s a good book. The educational format is really well done.

  11. Id be interested.
    I’m no expert, I just try to learn from others and use common sense thinking to the equation off 4th G.
    The scrum gets pretty hot regarding such topics. There’s a lot of arm chair generals out there though who are not wrong. Especially the subject of leaderless resistance and grass roots insurgency. It can be feeding frenzy of sharks circling for the kill.
    The resistance is futile trolls and agent provocateurs attempt to sow discord and disrupt the reasoned comment threads.
    I’m saying you have to expect that kind of stuff. There’s elements either have unshakable not invented here mindset, and or those actively working to disavow such ideas of self determination, and defense of ones freedoms via sovereign use of arms. The last, not so much since the red diaper regime is no longer in the oval office. Still a few have persisted. Some I suspect are such as ideological college professors or other academics posing as common commenters.

    Ones who want to be proven right their gloomy gus its useless to fight thinking, like they want to bath in the self pity, will say anything to remain relevant. Then there’s those who fancy themselves the Generalmissio’s in the upcoming glory of festivities.

    The idea is to go at it without all the extra baggage effects of the above actors and characters. I think you need at least a couple of stout thought leaders who can keep the comment thread on course without having to wade through all the politics.

    I joined on FreeZokee couple weeks back, mostly cause Matt Bracken is involved in the Alt-Platform it is. Thats says a lot for me.
    But been pretty busy of recent and haven’t cruised around it to see whats up.

    Full disclosure here, been commenting around since about 2005 when the alternative media and comment threads began to sprout up. I have many “enemies” lets say. There’s a few “cliques” lets say in the tactical/FreeFor community. I’m not warmly welcomed in a couple. I have a big mouth and don’t mince words, and refuse to go along with some of the self anointed tactical leadership in certain parts of the liberty movement when they have more or less drawn lines and went after me for saying certain things. I’ll say it now, there’s been a couple false profits, who where or are not who they lead others to believe they, hence the generation of cult like followings.

    I’m being frank with my personal perspective here, because my only motivation, is we all have to find ways to work together. I’m not talking we all agreeing with each other on everything.
    What it is, is it all begins with each of us. We are all in this together whether we think so or not, like the pig, committed.
    Of course, Lord help us it doesn’t come to the worse.
    But there’s the rare individual of us has any first hand actual live experience in the possibilities that could happen in our country. But we have to be as well informed and educated as practical can be. Its the best weapon there is second only to using our heads as the primary weapon.
    That is the pickle right there. Understanding that first, is the key to becoming usefully enlightened.

    Which I’m all for. And paying that forward is a great force multiplier.

    Make sense to you?

  12. PS, in large part, why I have a blog. To offer up and pay forward good stuff we all can use. That I’ve been gifted by others, their knowledge, insights and wisdom. Paying that forward is honoring that generosity and spirit in a way.
    nterestingly those who I’ve tangled with on other comment threads, regularly, in the above regards, have not shown themselves on my blog to date. Thats saying something right there. Or maybe I’m a lousy blog writer. LoLs!
    I’ve blocked one particularly hateful commenter, because he was extremely foul mouthed about his points and vectored towards personal attacks. Go away quietly please. Not that there is much comment going on the blog in any case.

    But yeah, I’m open to something. Nothing ventured nothing gained right?
    Its why I like your blog. You have a great format of presenting truly useful and practical things, thinking, and knowledge.
    My hats off to you.

  13. That attitude about the South, thats an interesting topic.
    Being born and raised in NH, and moved to the western edge of the spine of the Monogahela Mountains 12 years ago, its been a most enlightening journey.
    Tell you what, as a Yankee, I was steeped in revised history of the South. Talking terrible outright bald face lies created out of whole cloth, in every meaning of the whole cloth.

    When those we knew in our lives heard we where moving to WV, it was almost indescribable the bigotry directed towards us. Even family disowned my wife and I. Life long friends we discovered where not.
    Its a prejudice you have to experience to know fully.
    We never looked back. Its been an absolutely wonderful life experience living here. The people, the Christian Agrarian provincial way of life.
    It is how it was as a boy in northern NH. Family, Faith, Tribe Community. Which was subject to genocide by the cultural marxists who basically invaded NH beginning in the early 80’s and have turned much of it into their little Peoples Republic of Massachusetts.
    The effects of which is one cause to move to WV.
    I’m not trying to stick up for Lind’s portrayal of the South. But I can understand where that yankeedom bigotry comes from. Its all pervasive marxian social engineering to put it politely.

  14. Well, your comments seem to finally be approved. Only took nearly two weeks.

    I guess I think the 4GW group should be more “academic” in nature, in that it shouldn’t be a politics or cliquish pissing match, but a place for people to discuss nuts-and-bolts tactics, strategy, and theory.

    The commenters can use historical examples as well as current events as grist for discussion.

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