The Sling and the Stone: On War in the 21st Century


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...
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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." - 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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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

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.”

Library Journal
Retired marine colonel Hammes maintains that modern warfare has evolved in four "generations," moving from the massed citizen armies of Napoleonic warfare to the apogee of firepower in World War I to the triumph of maneuver warfare in World War II. Finally, Hammes brings us up to fourth-generation warfare, or 4GW, from Mao to Vietnam, from the Sandinistas to the present. These conflicts show that superior political will can wear down a militarily superior adversary. A 4GW opponent fights across political, economic, social, and military spectrums to sap an adversary's will to continue fighting. Despite the emergence of transnational 4GW opponents like al Qaeda, the absence of a credible conventional threat, and past 4GW experiences in Vietnam, Somalia, and now Iraq, the U.S. defense establishment remains fixated on defeating a 3GW enemy. Instead of expensive weapons, we must, according to Hammes, invest in human capital, developing expertise in an adversary's language, culture, and history. Hammes offers a compellingly reasoned and supported argument that we need to reconsider how to defeat nonconventional threats to our national security. Recommended for military history and national security collections.-Edward J. Metz, USACGSC Combined Arms Research Lib., Ft. Leavenworth, KS Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780760324073
  • Publisher: Quarto Publishing Group USA, Inc.
  • Publication date: 2/28/2006
  • Series: Zenith Military Classics Series
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 967,413
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.75 (d)

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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Table of Contents

Introduction vii
1 Four Generations of Warfare 1
2 The First Two Generations of Modern War 16
3 Transition to Third-Generation Warfare 23
4 Changes in Society 32
5 Mao and the Birth of Fourth-Generation War 44
6 The Vietnamese Modification 56
7 The Sandinista Refinement 76
8 The Intifada: Civilians versus an Army 89
9 The al-Aqsa Intifada 111
10 Al-Qaeda: A Transnational Enemy 130
11 Afghanistan: A Tribal Network 153
12 Iraq: High-Tech versus Fourth-Generation 172
13 Technology: Not a Panacea 190
14 Characteristics of Fourth-Generation War 207
15 Where to from Here? 224
16 Evaluating the Threat 246
17 The Future Is Flexibility 273
End Notes 292
References 296
Index 311
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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 20, 2005

    Definite Recommendation

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 16, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Never Underestimate Your Enemy

    Col. Hammes makes a strong case for being prepared and aware of what your enemy can do and not on what he can't. In this age of internet and global communications,what happens is istantly reported as fact. Your most effective weapon is the media and means of comminication with the polpulace. Col. Hammes has the experience of years of advance training in the Marine Corps adn his deployment to Iraq in the invasion he draws upon years of experience to formulate his therories. As someone who was involvoed in CounterInsurgecy (I served as an Advisor to the Iraqi Army 2005-06) and taught it to deploying troops (2007-2008), the book is straight forward and easy to read. For anyone in the military regardless of rank and getting ready to deploy this is a must read and a good starter for a counterinsurgecy library.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2007

    Interesting and Relevant

    The 'Generation 4' warfare is not that new of an idea.Van Creveld alludes to it in at least two of his books as do some others. However this book is a very good read.On the other hand for someone totally uninitiated in military history and theories of warfare this book could be difficult.But my advice is stay with it the book is very worth while reading. I liked the description of the Intifada as a perfect example of Generation 4 warfare especially the disarming of the teenagers by letting them use stones only (not Molotov cocktails) thus leading to the Oslo negotiations and concessions by Israel. I also liked the example of Arafat on how not to do generation 4 warfare and screwing up much of the gains from Oslo. The tracing of the evolution to generation 4 warfare from Mao and Ho Chi Minh through all its variations is interesting as is the critique of the Pentagon hierarchical vertical command setup leading to the cumbersome non responsive defense against G4 warfare.The description of the horizontal simple networking command and control structure of G4 warfare system was very revealing.Those were the good parts of the book. However the lengthy soujourn through the G1 through G3 warfare those of us familiar with military history could have done without.Napoleonic war and the mighty attrition battles of Verdun and Stalingrad are gone and will probably never be repeated. However conventional war on the Guderian and Patton maneuver model will probably crop up again.G4 war is very dependent on terrain and cultural factors and probably will not be adopted in its pure form everywhere.The author alludes to that,but does not seem to recognize that technology does have its place in war still because G4 warfare can be effective but it does not win wars. Even Mao in 1949 and Ho in 1975 had to apply heavy doses of G3 war to secure their gains and consolidate them.Hence I did not give this book 5 stars.Technology while it has to adapt to G3 AND G4 war will not be eliminated.A very extreme (however not very likely) application would be nuclear bombing and levelling of Veziristan thus destroying al Quada virtually totally.Ah yes technology!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 2, 2005

    The only question is will we listen

    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.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 25, 2004

    Colonel Hammes: the Man and the Marine.

    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.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 2, 2004

    How David Beats Goliath

    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

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 15, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted July 11, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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