On War #124
FMFM 1-A, Fourth Generation War, Is Now Available
By William S. Lind
As regular readers of this column know, the Fourth Generation seminar I lead has been working for several years on a Fourth Generation war field manual. That manual, FMFM 1-A, is now available on military.com, DNI (274 KB MS Word Document), SFTT and, in a slightly edited version, On Point, the new website journal of U.S. Cavalry.
FMFM 1-A is modelled on the excellent field manuals issued by the U.S. Marine Corps when General Al Gray was Commandant, beginning with FMFM 1, Warfighting. Our seminar cannot write an official U.S. Marine Corps field manual, so FMFM 1-A is a manual of the Imperial and Royal Austro-Hungarian Marine Corps. This is an old literary device, dating back at least to Montesquieu’s Persian Letters in the 18th century. Yes, it risks confusing the literal minded; I’ve always thought the litany should include the prayer, “From the literal minded, Good Lord deliver us.”
The seminar decided to post FMFM 1-A as a draft. The reason is simple: we hope that the comments we get back on the various websites where the manual is posted will help us improve it. When the seminar reconvenes in the fall, we will carefully evaluate all comments and suggestions as we turn the draft into a definitive first edition. We want our effort to be an open process, open especially to those who are fighting 4GW in Iraq and Afghanistan. Two members of the seminar have fought in Iraq, one as a company commander and one as an assistant division commander; another is there now, and a fourth leaves in July for Afghanistan. But the more lessons from actual combat we can incorporate, the better the final edition of the manual will be.
I don’t intend to summarize the FMFM 1-A here, since it is now available to anyone who wants to read it. But I do want to explain why we wrote it the way we did. While it necessarily deals with military theory, some of it quite complex, at its heart lies a story, the story of Operation David. Here, we drew on the model offered by the U.S. Marine Corps’ Command & Control FMFM. When Captain John Schmitt brought me the original draft of Command & Control, back in the early 1990s, I said to him, “John, the book needs a story that illustrates the concepts the manual is trying to teach.” John wrote a superb story, and ever since that FMFM came out, Marines have told me that they got much more out of the story than from the theoretical parts of the manual. I’m not sure our story is as good as the one John Schmitt wrote, but we have at least tried to do what he did. You can judge whether or not we succeeded.
In my own view, the portion of the FMFM 1-A that needs the most work is Chapter II, Fighting Fourth Generation War. I do not say that because the chapter includes little on techniques; in a Third Generation military, techniques, processes and procedures are never doctrine. Doctrine is how to think, not what to do. My concern is simply that this section could be better if we had more combat experience to draw on. Again, by offering a draft, we hope to elicit that experience and incorporate it in the final version. So if you don’t like what we have written, don’t just carp; contribute.
The Russians have an old saying, “Best is enemy of good enough.” American Marines and soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan need a guide of some sort for the new kind of war they find themselves facing. FMFM 1-A, Fourth Generation War, offers at least a starting point. If it proves helpful to those facing the IEDs, RPGs and mortars on a daily basis, that is all the reward the members of the seminar seek.
Word document available upon request.
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