The Sling and the Stone: On War in the 21st Centuryby Colonel Thomas X. Hammes, USMC
Ongoing events in Iraq show how difficult it is for the world's only remaining superpower to impose its will upon other peoples. From Vietnam, French and US, to Afghanistan, Russian and US, to Israel and the Palestinians, to Somalia and Kosovo, recent history is replete with powerful military forces being tied up by seemingly weaker opponents. This is Fourth
Ongoing events in Iraq show how difficult it is for the world's only remaining superpower to impose its will upon other peoples. From Vietnam, French and US, to Afghanistan, Russian and US, to Israel and the Palestinians, to Somalia and Kosovo, recent history is replete with powerful military forces being tied up by seemingly weaker opponents. This is Fourth Generation War (4GW), and Colonel Thomas Hammes, United States Marine Corps, tells you all about it. The author explains asymetrical warfare (4GW) as the means by which Davids can defeat Goliaths.Answers to the "hows" of this along with recommendations for prescriptive actions are found in Thomas Hammes insightful book on the strengths and weaknesses of coventional military power. Hammes, a full colonel on active duty in the Marine Corps is an expert at asymetrical warfare, perhaps better known as fourth generation warfare (4GW). This is the means by which Davids can defeat Goliaths.Colonel Hammes is well placed to write this study. As a career-Marine he has trained 4GW warriors in some places and fought against them in others. He has also made a lifelong study of military history which helps him illuminate the previous three generations of armed conflict and define and detail the newest, fourth generation of war.- An insider's look at the military dilemma now facing U.S. forces worldwide- Gives historical examples to support the ideas behind the transformation of warfare in the 21st century- A handbook to understanding asymetrical warfare"Colonel Hammes cuts to the quick in defining the conundrum of dealing with twenty-first century warfare, the competing concepts of its nature and its management. His is a controversial analysis which is bound to raise the hackles of today's techno warriors ."-Bernard Trainor, Lieutenant General, USMC (Ret.), NBC News military analyst, co-author of The Generals"Based in history and current events, Tom Hammes explains the nasty, long-term, broad-spectrum wars we have fought
Military Review, March/April 2007
“Can a two-and-one-half-year-old book be reviewed as a classic? It can, and should, if it says the kinds of smart, prescient things that Hammes had to say in 2004. The Sling and the Stone was written to appeal to a vast and diverse audience. It provides numerous jewels of information for the general reader as well as senior military leaders, military operational planners and supporters, interagency personnel, and U.S. political leaders who are looking for a provocative read to aid them in making informed decisions in support of U.S. national security. Since its first publication, this visionary book has ignited others in public and private life to read, research, write, and advocate for the United States to change its defense posture in order to meet the challenge posed by the advent of 4GW. Many of Hammes’ ideas have now been adopted by the military and are currently in practice in Iraq and Afghanistan. Other ideas are being studied extensively within the Washington Beltway. U.S. homeland security and counterinsurgency doctrines have also been strongly influenced and shaped by this book. Hammes has truly been a catalyst for change … Hammes’s book is truly an enlightening must-read for Military Review’s readers, particularly those attending career military schools. It should remain so for many years to come.”
Parameters: U.S. Army War College Quarterly, Autumn 2005
“This is a stimulating – nay, provocative – book that should cause military readers and all associated with the security of the United States to question their fundamental assumptions. It is also a gutsy book because the author, a serving officer, asserts in effect that the Secretary of Defense, his team in the Pentagon, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff are wrong in the way they are fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He further contends that the United States stands a good chance of losing its wars in the future unless the forces confront the realities of warfare in this century.”
What People are Saying About This
"For nearly a quarter century, T.X. Hammes has been one of the Marine Corps' most thoughtful students on the evolution of warfare, the ever-changing threats that face us, and the adjustments needed at every level if the U.S. military is to meet the challenges that lie ahead. A blunt, straightforward author, his book reflects candor and insight. He explains the nature of the emerging style of warfare and explains why the current transformation planning is missing the mark."
"Based in history and current events, Thomas Hammes explains the nasty, long-term, broad-spectrum wars we have fought and will continue to fight. It stands in sharp contrast to the short, high-tech, clean war the defense department is planning for. He focuses on how to win the war rather than just winning battles. Understanding the type of war you are fighting is the first step to winning. This book will help you understand."
"Colonel Hammes cuts to the quick in defining the conundrum of dealing with 21st century warfare, the competing concepts of its nature, and its management. His is a controversial analysis which is bound to raise the hackles of today's techno warriors."
"Colonel Hammes provides a great service by bringing war fighting back to reality. He strips away the misleading fog created by the latest iteration of the U.S. tendency to believe that technology and weaponry win wars, not people and ideas. By looking at the past unconventional wars he shows us what to expect in the future, where there will be conventional challenge to U.S. superiority but a return to the strategy and tactics used so successfully by opponents such as Ho Chi Minh against the French first, then the U.S."
Military Review, March/April 2007
“Can a two-and-one-half-year-old book be reviewed as a classic? It can, and should, if it says the kinds of smart, prescient things that Hammes had to say in 2004.
“The Sling and the Stone was written to appeal to a vast and diverse audience. It provides numerous jewels of information for the general reader as well as senior military leaders, military operational planners and supporters, interagency personnel, and U.S. political leaders who are looking for a provocative read to aid them in making informed decisions in support of U.S. national security. Since its first publication, this visionary book has ignited others in public and private life to read, research, write, and advocate for the United States to change its defense posture in order to meet the challenge posed by the advent of 4GW. Many of Hammes’ ideas have now been adopted by the military and are currently in practice in Iraq and Afghanistan. Other ideas are being studied extensively within the Washington Beltway. U.S. homeland security and counterinsurgency doctrines have also been strongly influenced and shaped by this book. Hammes has truly been a catalyst for change … Hammes’s book is truly an enlightening must-read for Military Review’s readers, particularly those attending career military schools. It should remain so for many years to come.”
Meet the Author
A graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and a career Marine, Thomas Hammes has spent most of his twenty-eight years serving in infantry and intelligence assignments. Colonel Hammes is considered by many in the defense community as the foremost expert in insurgent warfare. He has written numerous articles on defense issues and has appeared on PBS News Hour and other cable and network broadcasts. He is a senior military fellow at the National Defense University. He lives with his family in northern Virginia.
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A lot of theoretical military science - a book that would have the most impact on anyone interested in history, military science, or international relations. The theoretical nature of the narrative may be enough to frankly bore the casual reader. That being said, I liked it a lot. I even did something I rarely do when I read - I took notes. I wasn't quite sure what to think after reading the 1st chapter or 2 and was afraid I was starting to read the rant of an unhappy officer. However, as I read more and more, I found myself thinking of military conflict in a new way, and found myself agreeing with most, but not all of the author's viewpoints. The parts that I did not like was the fact that he stated that the US military had lost the 'wars' in Somalia and Lebanon - 'war' is a strong word to use to describe something that was essentially a humanitarian mission to provide a prescence to protect human life, with no intention of staying in a long-term conflict, and in that respect, the US was not about to remain involved once they started to take casualties and it became a military combat operation. I waited for the author to return to that idea and explain those statements, but only vague at best arguments were made to support the idea. The author should have just left those references out altogether as he compiled enough case studies to make a compelling argument without their use. The chapter on the al-Aqsa intifada also sort of wandered around without conclusion for awhile. As I began the chapter on Iraq, I was afraid I was in for another rant again, but I found myself in complete agreement with him as he said we can't completely identify who the insurgents in Iraq are, making it even more difficult to defeat them. I agreed with his suggestions for change in how personnel are distributed in the military and how promotions are awarded. But I disagree with the author that more Military Police units should be created from combat arms units. But this is a fundamental difference of opinion, because I also believe that there are real conventional threats still lurking, validating the importance of combat arms, and also that not all wars are 4GW. I don't believe it is that black and white. Operation Iraqi Freedom did not begin as a 4GW conflict, even though it would seem to have reached that point now. More Civil Affairs and Engineering units would help along with MPs. But to blindly sugget that the world has only 1 type of warfare is a bit naive, and we should staff our military to meet a hybrid version of 3GW and 4GW. But this book does a fantastic job of opening minds to see modern warfare from a completely different angle and I personally will highly recommend it.
As we spend Billions to fight the wars of the past, Col. Hammes shows how history shows we need to move past our ideas of what war is. It¿s even more Political, Economic, Low tech, and wars last decades not months. I found his ideas for a new training program and advancement system to be a very good plan to get our military ready to be the Flexible player needed in today¿s world. This book is great for anyone in or joining the Military or wish to be in government where some of the ideas presented need to be pushed. I am not a member of the armed services, but have been waiting for someone to wake up the public to this not so new type of war we are fighing.
I am not a Military Scholar or a professional officer with a long distinguished career. I have also never been in combat. However, I am someone who is uniquely qualified to say something very positive about Colonel Hammes: the Man and the Marine. As a young Marine Second Lieutenant I had the privilege and honor of serving in the same Rifle Company with Tom Hammes 27 years ago. We were both Platoon Commanders with India Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Brigade, Fleet Marine Force Pacific in Hawaii. As I remember Tom, he was an outstanding human being and brilliant young officer and everyone in our Battalion knew that he was destined for greatness. It looks like we were all correct to think so. I have not seen him in almost 30 years and I have not read his new book. However, I can't wait to pick up a copy. Robert K. Leonard, Former Captain, USMCR.
Last year in Iraq, the US armed forces and allies proved their mastery of conventional war; then proved they knew too little about the unconventional or ¿Peoples War¿ that the occupation stirred up. There is a small circle of strategic practitioners who have studied well the phenomena of Peoples War or what some call ¿Fourth Generation Warfare¿ (4GW) and TX Hammes has taken the time to write a clear guidebook on how best to address the enemy in a Peoples War: The Sling and the Stone. It is a handbook on their strategies and tactics in war where the propaganda message is more powerful than the other elements of strategy and policy. In conjunction with other works such as Eric Hoffer¿s ¿The True Believer¿ and ¿Occidentalism: The West in the Eyes of its Enemys, by Ian Baruma and Avishai Margalit, you can begin to formulate a set of messages that can help counter the guerrillas¿ messages. First, Hammes, a Marine Colonel on active duty, defines the Four Generations of Warfare: Lace Wars, Industrial Attritional Warfare, Maneuver Warfare and Peoples Warfare. Peoples War has glimmerings as far back as Wat Tyler¿s Rebellion of 1381 and the establishment of the Swiss Republic, and the US addressed Peoples War as far back as 1900 in the Philippine Insurrection. Our stay-behind troops also waged a successful 4GW campaign against the Japanese in the Philippines during World War 2. But Hammes, after charting the Changes in Society that are critical to understanding societal stresses in this new century, begins his case studies on 4GW with Mao¿s Peoples War of 1930-49. Central to understanding how they fight 4GW is that time is the factor that works in their favor, not the tempo of operations. Also central is the messages the guerrilla leaders send to their followers, to their opponent¿s populace (the target of their war), to their opponent government, and to the world at large. Because time and message work in their favor, the opponent¿s military force tends to waste its energy in mounting a massive tempo of operations and utilizing attritional and maneuver tactics seeking to force a set piece battle to destroy the guerrilla army. Hammes continues from Mao to Ho Chi Minh whose message was refined to resonate through the increasing power of the electronic media. He then studies how the Sadanistas of Nicaragua masqueraded as something more broad-based than the doctrinaire Marxist movement that was its central essence. Interestingly, he then contrasts the very successful Intifada of 1987-91 with Yassir Arafat¿s badly bungled 2nd Intifada (2000-present). Young Palestinians with slings and stones brought Israel to the bargaining table in Oslo, while suicide bombers have gotten Arafat nothing but rubble and ruin. He then addresses in sequence Al Qaeda, Afghanistan and Iraq. Ideologies and principles underlying Peoples War are not 'rocket surgery,' as TX will tell you informally. In his concluding chapters Colonel Hammes contests our establishment¿s obsession with techno-war solutions; they worked well enough in the conventional campaign that liberated Iraq but gave us no means of averting the uprisings by various elements of Iraqi society and Al Qaeda that ensued. All our rapid tempo and high tech wizardry is of limited use in deterring the bombers or Muqtada al-Sadr¿s gun men and boys. We have to think flexibly, he concludes, and in the final essence we have to understand better how to formulate and deliver a clear message of opportunity to the target audience that both we and the guerrillas seek to motivate. We are fortunate that in this new century, communism and other ideologies are increasingly antique and radical messages such as Al Qaeda's and that of the Chechen insurrectionists do not resonate with the vast majority in their target populations who relish the opportunities presented by our information age. On the other hand, al-Sadr¿s more crafted Populist message does resonate with a significant slice of Iraq¿s population and