Recently, the question has arisen as to if Julian Assange of Wikileaks fame is a terrorist. In truth, this semantic issue is only important to the lawyers who may, in the future, find themselves either defending or prosecuting individuals who use cyber-attacks to deny service, or spread confidential or secret information.
The actions of Julian Assange are an expression of 4th Generation Warfare, a term coined by William Lind. For those not familiar, Lind classified war into 4 generations as follows:
Gen. 1) Line and column, Napoleonic warfare
Gen. 2) Dependence on firepower and linear attack and defence; WW1
Gen. 3) Mobility used to attack weak points in the enemy’s rear ie Blitzkrieg, Desert Storm etc.
Gen. 4) Non-linear, guerilla warfare, non-massed attacks, using a full spectrum concept of political attacks, undermining cultural legitimacy, deception, terror, and cyber-attacks etc.
Because of the immense power of state military structures, the 4th generation fighter seeks every loophole available, in the true concept of Sun Tzu. Legal loopholes are exploited, the media is fully employed as a weapon for shaping the enemy and friendly population’s opinion.
Some argue that the generation classifications of warfare are themselves, mere semantics. That guerillas have always exploited the weaknesses of behemothic state war machines. This is true of course, but we are not only talking about guerilla warfare. What we are witnessing is a concerted effort to use our very strengths against us. Our laws, technology, openness to outside points of view and freedom have now become a sword in the hands of our enemies.
Despite our cynicism about government, the state finds itself bound more by laws than the non-state actor. Combining the delegitimizing of the state; technological advances which have catapulted the potential of the individual to previously undreamt of levels; the 24 hour news cycle; and the collapse of the bi-polar, Cold War, world, the 4th generation of warfare will be cause for trouble and concern for decades to come.
The 4th generation of warfare blurs the line between politics, crime and war. That is why there is so much talk about these issues now. Terrorism and cyber-attacks not only damage our system, they call into question the very ethos upon which our system is built. Witness the legal aspects of terror detainees, trial locations for those captured in the War on Terror, the moral and legal uncertainties of drone attacks in Pakistan.
We must come to the realization that our enemies are attacking our weaknesses, not our strengths. We are held captive, much as the British were in the American Revolution, by archaic and mythological honorable forms of war. We hope that Rule of Law can control the primeval passions of stateless idealogues and that static legislation can cup the liquid nature of intelligent enemies.
Our enemies read and know Sun Tzu. Our leaders read the results of recent polling.