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

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  671 Ratings  ·  38 Reviews
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." - ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published February 17th 2006 by Zenith Press (first published 2004)
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Six stars - important, deeply insightful, and very well organized and written. Col. Hammes argues that our armed forces are not organized, equipped, or trained for the type of war we've been facing more often than not since Vietnam, i.e. 4th generation warfare or 4GW (1st gen was basically masses armed with pointy things or slow, inaccurate firearms trying to kill each other, i.e. everything before the Civil War; 2nd gen was use of firepower to destroy the enemy army, i.e. WWI; 3rd gen concentra ...more
Jan 19, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Col. Hammes is an exponent of what military theorists refer to as fourth-generation warfare (4GW). From my limited understanding of the topic, 4GW is a theoretical framework used to characterize the objectives and methods of a type of struggle which has mainly manifested itself in the 20th century as guerrilla warfare and terrorism. Some characteristics of 4GW include the prevalence of non-state actors; fluid, non-hierarchical, networked combatant organizations; long-term conflict, in terms of d ...more
Jan 22, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: social-studies
A good book by Marine Colonel Thomas Hammes. He demonstrates that the kind of warfare being fought now in Afganistan, Iraq, and Pakishastan is not really new - it is an evolutionary step from a type of borderless warfare that has been developing for many years. He asserts that military leaders must study the history of warfare and project from that study to understand what is going on now, and to prepare for whatever is coming next.

Hammes says the Pentagon is stuck in a model of warfare no one i
Jul 14, 2015 rated it liked it
I bought and read this when it came out. I felt there was very little new or illuminating in it- however, at the time I was just glad professional military people were out there offering a counter to the hi-tech Rumsfeld Doctrine, as the Neo-COINs (ha! I just made that up!) were in their infancy and barely had a voice. CNAS didn't even exist then if I'm correct. I remember thinking that "4GW" was just a rehash and repackaging of previous writing on counterinsurgency theory. Might give it a re-re ...more
Mar 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The aspects of fourth generation war are true. A dispersed guerrilla type enemy with a multitude of international players. 4GW is the only proven successful option for an opponent of a superpower. The Soviets faced the Mujahedan, we faced the Viet Cong and NVA, the British the Malaysians and the Boers, and now we face Iraq and Afghanistan. These 4GW wars are long. Decades long. Much longer than the fickle American public opinion. The author also explains that our force structure is unsuited to f ...more
Jul 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I can only imagine that this book, when it arrived in 2006, pissed a lot of people off. I think, though, that Col Hammes was looking around at the fact that the U.S. was deeply involved in both Iraq and Afghanistan and that he, as a career Marine and military intellectual (which he makes clear in the book is a term that we should probably decouple from people who claim the title by virtue of their degrees in engineering) needed to point out some truths ascertained by people who are both passiona ...more
Definitely worth the investment of time.

While this title began with a very promising start, it devolved with an increasing lack of fact and an increase in unsubstantiated opinion. Additionally there is a suspicious odor of noxious anti-Semitism which stains the pages. Hammes increasingly becomes:

Anti- technology
Anti- Israeli
Anti -Logic

Though some of his insights are remarkable and straight to the point there tends to be a strong undercurrent of dissatisfaction and pessimism. The read
Chris Boette
May 11, 2010 rated it really liked it
I had more I wanted to say when I started reading this book months ago, but entropy being what it is, energy on the subject has waned...

To start:

The author states at the beginning of the text that he is a military man, and not an academic. Over the course of his career, he spent much time studying history and contemporary events to gain a greater understanding of the war in which the United States is embroiled. Despite his time spent in academia, the author retains an easy-to-understand writing
Ryan Holiday
Jul 05, 2012 rated it liked it
I'd meant to read this in 2007, right after Brave New War: The Next Stage of Terrorism and the End of Globalization (also recommended). I wish I had because the examples would been more current and I would have been better able to understand everything that's happened in the last three years. If you have basic education in military history and tactics, this is a good next step. The first half is a good review of the past, and the second half is a great primer on the present and the future. BNW i ...more
Nov 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Military officers, folks interested in modern warfare
Recommended to Timothy by: R. Alan King
I picked this book up on the recommendation of a mentor prior to going to a developmental school. I really appreciated Hammes' approach towards framing his arguments and providing the history. I believe context matters and it doesn't seem like Hammes ignores the context. I learned SO much about modern military history - it wasn't detailed or very deep, but it provided me a superb jumping off point from which I could do further research. And it was readable - I truthfully did not want to put it d ...more
Aug 02, 2013 rated it it was ok
I expected so much more from this book. Hammes contends that we are engaged in a new form of warfare--4th Generation War (4GW). And its the only type of warfare that has ever defeated major western powers. Ok, fine, I can accept that argument, but Hammes never MAKES that argument. 4GW is basically just insurgencies with less centralized information networks and decision-making. It's all fine and good to tell me that Mao, Ho Chi Min, et al varied their approaches to asymmetrical warfare, and it's ...more
May 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2015
Though I didn't agree with everything Hammes had to say on the micro level (regarding Israel and Palestine, for example) on the macro level this was amazing. 4GW (fourth generation warfare, or warfare based on information rather than maneuver) is the form of warfare fought by conventionally inferior states, or nonstate actors. It is effective against superpowers in contemporary times because they are busy fighting 3GW, focused on technological superiority and winning battles. It makes a great de ...more
Aug 19, 2007 rated it really liked it
This book is a brief overview of the concepts of 4GW. It does not go into near enough depth as to the development or application of 4GW. At most I would recommend this book as a beginning introduction to the concepts.

Most useful were several of the beginning chapters that add to the understanding one would gain from Reading "War of the Flea". Even greater were the ending chapters on how to reconfigure the US military and security establishment to confront 4GW. This was by far the most complete a
Mar 18, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: poli-sci
An interesting concept, beaten to death over the course of an entire book rather than a concise academic paper. Cue the "oh right, that's what I hate about international relations theory" remembrances from college. Probably of significantly more interest if you are a member of the military. As a civilian, with less background in the Arab-Israeli background than I want, I soaked up the descriptions of the tactics of the first and second intifadas. The historical discussions of Mao, Vietnam, and t ...more
Ben Vogel
Nov 13, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think this would be a 5 star book for people invested in the success of the modern military. 4 stars for me as someone who knows a fair amount of military history but isn't super well versed on the issues of modern times.

The author does an outstanding job of justifying his beliefs with historical examples of governments and militaries consistently fighting the current war with the mindset of the previous war. The author shows not only how this is common and understandable, but how it is fatall
Gary Patton
May 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone concerned about the root of violent Islamic jihad
Recommended to Gary by: a friend
Shelves: spirituality
This is not a so-called "Christian book". However, regarding a Jesus Follower's "armour of God", outlined in Ephesians 6:10-19 (, some readers will be intrigued by what you can discover about the relationship between 'insurgency' and a Jesus Follower's warrior-interaction with and Jesus' commanded-response to present Spiritual Warfare in the short introduction to Col.Hammes' book.

If you have any Muslim Friends or neighbours, you also will find helpful the author's insider-
Aug 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
This book is a must-read for everyone interested in military history and the evolution of warfare. Although it lacks depth, which is understandable since it covers all forms of warfare since its inception, it describes the 4 generations of warfare superbly. Advantages and disadvantages of each generation are given as well as the factors which contributed to the creation of each generation.

Also advisable for everyone who wants to understand why the great military nations sometimes fail in certain
Robert Bor
Mar 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
Concerns the inability of the modern (US) military to deal with the new generation of warfare, consistently termed 4th Generation Warfare. The author goes forth to describe how a network-based approach trumps the traditional hierarchy-based approach. The goal of the book must have been to reach the brass in the Pentagon and make them repent. Did it work? Time will tell.

A good read, which I found at least partly applicable to business organizations as well, especially the concept of networks vs h
Jun 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This was one of the books I read when I was undertaking my post graduate course in political science. It brilliantly explains 4GW and is recommended for those interested in insurgency and counter insurgency.

I also remember listening to the authour give a talk on this subject and stating that Al Qaeda had referenced his book in communications. This should tell you something of the importance of understanding this theory and the warning it gives to democratic nation states in the need for adaptabi
John Schneider
Jul 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Hammes does an excellent job describing the evolution of warfare in the modern era as well as how fourth generation warfare presently operates. Once one grasps the basics of 4GW, many present day conflicts look very different and are much more understandable in terms of why they keep going on. I would recommend this book highly to any one who wants to understand how much conflict has changed since World War II.
The American Conservative
'For at least a decade, Colonel Tom Hammes has been one of the Marine Corps’ leading intellectuals. His book The Sling and the Stone: On War in the 21st Century should be read by anyone who has an interest in Fourth Generation warfare (4GW).'

Read the full review, "Two Intifidas and a Flawed Theory," on our website:
Mar 12, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
While I tend to disagree with the central premise that 4th Generation Warfare is something new that began with Mao, it does provide a useful framework for him to discuss the rest of his points, which I think are spot on.

He's not the first to call for radical reform in US armed forces personnel policies, David Hackworth called for similar changes in the eighties, but he does show the dangers of sticking with our 19th Century personnel system while fighting 21st Century wars.
David Elkin
Nov 17, 2011 rated it liked it
Just finishing it up. Good start about 4th Generation Warfare, but it was written in 2004, so his information on how Iraq ended, and how Afghan has continued is not there. A readable book and one that deals with how to defeat the biggest and best military by guerilla warfare. Lot's of new names, but the style of fighting has been going on for most of our history. Work picking up.
Jan 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
An analysis of modern warfare in the last 150 years and a critique of the follies of the American military industrial complex being utilized in real world application of political and military conflicts. In short, an effective military is about people and not the marvels of military technological advancement.
Hammes builds a convincing case that distributed decision making and networked operations have less to do with technology. Winning a fourth-generation war is premised on tapping the collective skills of innovative individuals to thwart the ability of adversaries to attack the political will of national leaders.
Jay Blewett
Jan 27, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
interesting, and timely

the prose is somewhat difficult in places cues but the ideas are applicable to today. AS I read, I found myself applying the ideas to current. headlines like ISIS, and the Paris attacks
Oct 23, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Teachers looking for backgrounders, people interested in the roots of modern conflicts.
An interesting look at the history of the modern insurgency. There are some very good background accounts of insurgencies current and past, which make for good basic histories.
Unfortunately, Hammes tries to fit these into a discussion of "generations of warfare" which seem at times contrived.
Nov 08, 2009 rated it liked it
Discussion on war in 21st century. Concept of 4th generation warfare, insurgencies and how to deal with them.
Jul 25, 2008 rated it really liked it
what is asymmetric warfare? how does it differ from other forms and methods of waging war? col. hammes has got some ideas on the subject and some possible solutions.
Nov 11, 2008 rated it really liked it
This book captures all of the current complexities of asymmetric warfare US forces are dealing with worldwide.
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