Fifth Gradient Warfare – And Fox’s desire to keep DfID a mess.

Defence Secretary Fox is getting his knickers in a twist over the coalition commitment to enshrine in British Law the requirement to spend 0.7% of GNP in official development assistance. This blog is quite certain that he is, and not just because doing so poses the potential for a myriad of legal challenges. Enshrining in law a specific commitment requires a detailed accounting process, that will list achievements against specific criteria, and throw up endless potential to challenge the justification of a given project, requiring detailed and public response in defence of actions taken.

In short, it threatens to make official development assistance comprehensible, succinct, and verifiable.

That is not a good thing, surely, in the eyes of the MoD blackhats. It is a frequently observed fact that many developed nations use their Aid budget to directly buy foreign influence, or to subsidise their military spending, so the ‘chaotic’ independence of the DfID is an impression the MoD will be keen to preserve.

Liam Fox talks of flexible commitments in response to changing priorities, and avoiding the threat of constant legal challenge as similarly posed by the new military covenant, but perhaps what he is really worried about is HMG’s continued ability to shape the world in its image, behind the scenes as well as in centre-stage:

Furthermore, as a result of the wider drive to improve the transparency and accountability of international development work, the Government’s own monitoring and reporting requirements for ODA are likely to become more stringent.

This may present risks to my department’s ability to both report certain priority activities as ODA and, therefore, to receive funding for them from the Conflict Pool.

How does this fit with Herring’s description of Fifth Gradient Warfare as; “the principle of the manipulation of the context of the observations of actors in conflict or confrontation in order to affect a specific positional change or achieve a specific effect.”

Or, indeed the the mechanics of 5GW as described by Rees; “The major features of the power used to wage war are energy and visibility. The smaller the amount of energy that’s concentrated into a form of strategic power, the visible a form of strategic power it is. Any visibility caused by energy expenditure is death to its political desires.”

The words or Pampinella are also instructive; “Constructivist theorists such as Wendt place culture at the centre of analysis, and argue that self-interest  is externally derived through ones social experiences, memories, and definition of ones identity. As social  relations change and actors are exposed to new norms and values, we can expect an actor’s identity to change as well. This involves presenting potential adversaries with new observations that falsify hostile orientations and socialize those actors into developing more cooperative orientations.”

To conclude with Abbot; “A 5th Generation Warfare might be fought with one side not knowing who it is fighting. Or, even, a brilliantly executed 5GW might involve one side being completely ignorant that there ever was a war.”

The thinly veiled parallel to which Fox alluded in his complaint is that in creating a legal definition of what aid is and should be, enshrined in law, will thus prevent exactly the kind of harmonisation between aid and security that we seek to achieve.

The aid budget is an tool of enormous significance for practising fifth gradient warfare, provided HMG has the flexibility to apply where it needed and without any obvious indicators to the ‘special’ nature of a given program.

Creating a new rule-set that stipulates in detail the preconditions of development aid, or otherwise, will be problematic.

To provide the hypothetical example of a possible desire to free Lebanon of ‘malign’ external influence:

Requiring select-committee scrutiny of an economic development program in southern Turkey aimed at power generation on the Euphrates may be viewed as suspicious by Syria given the potential for increased unrest among the agriculture dependent in its north.

Especially so if there is a similar scrutiny required for a democracy-awareness program in Kurdish parts of Northern Iraq, given the potential for political awareness to percolate through culturally homogeneous groups regardless of borders.

Would it not be hilarious if, at the same time, DfID sponsored third-party aid programs via Oxfam et-al in Syria that promoted best-practice in sustainable agriculture as well as initiatives that promoted (non-specific) cultural awareness in regions of Syria that include the Kurdish population….

These ends can be countered if recognised, thus negating the [real] value of the aid-project in question, and so it is valuable for the true aims to be obfuscated in what is perceived as a cloud of left-wing touchy-feely emotional incontinence that the popular press have come to expect from DfID.

5GW is the ability to capitalise on latent trends, magnify them with regional events, and bring about change beneficial to your interests via second and third order effects whose provenance remain invisible to ones adversaries.

Fifth Gradient Warfare is destined to become as important a tool of British FP as the coercive effect of expeditionary military force, and that is best served by an apparently sprawling, ill-defined, and unaccountable aid budget.

2 responses to “Fifth Gradient Warfare – And Fox’s desire to keep DfID a mess.

  1. Jed,

    I think the issue is not in accountability per-se, but in the degree of that accountability. I well remember our Kings College lecturers at Staff College tearing their hair out in frustration at the utter dysfunctionality of Clare Shorts DfID, vis our operations in Iraq.

    Clearly, subtlety is key and your assertion that… ”the coercive effect of expeditionary military force, …is best served by sprawling, ill-defined, and unaccountable aid budget” is well made. But I would argue that the formal recognition of 5GW does not mean that the principles used to describe it did not already exist and were not already being used and have not been used, in a cognisant manner, by various HMG for some considerable time.

    Perhaps LF’s leaked letter was more of a plea not to throw babe out with the bath water? Our defence doctrine has recognised the link between second and third order effects on direct military operations and the wider national interest for some time and with it, the requirement to establish an organisation such as DfID; then to feed that organisation’s output into formal campaign planning.

    Political expediency (in the light of the general public’s ‘outrage’ that defence is being pared to the bone whilst HMG pours ‘our’ taxes after ‘corrupt foreign governments’) means that they must articulate the vital importance of ‘aid’ to our national interest – hence the move to codify in Law ODA. That is not necessarily a bad thing, if it allows HMG to more easily justify that spend (and to channel DfID’s output in the right direction), just as long as legal enshrinement does not allow the spotlight to be shone too brightly on the linkage between the activities of DfID to those of the MoD.


    • agreed Dieter.

      “I think the issue is not in accountability per-se, but in the degree of that accountability.”

      It was the perception of unaccountability that i was truly referring to, in a manner that clearly delineates DfID from similar institutions abroad that more directly work to achieve the national interest. So yes, the degree of accountability is what matters, hopefully not too much……..

      “just as long as legal enshrinement does not allow the spotlight to be shone too brightly on the linkage between the activities of DfID to those of the MoD.”

      This is feel is crux of Fox’s concern, and I am delighted but wholly unsurprised to hear that this has long been a goal of HMG.

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