Showing posts with label third generation warfare. Show all posts
Showing posts with label third generation warfare. Show all posts

Fourth-Generation Warfare Theory And Meaning

In a  essay titled 'The Changing Face of War: Into the Fourth Generation,' a group of US Marines commanders headed by military strategist William Lind originally proposed the notion of fourth-generation war (or 4GW). 

Since then, the concept of 4 GW has acquired traction in Western military circles, thanks to writings by Martin van Creveld and Samuel Huntington, and it has attracted both proponents and detractors. 

The writers of the essay argue that a study of contemporary warfare should start with the  Peace of Westphalia, which ended the Thirty Years' War and established the state's monopoly on war. 

Three generations of conflict have changed the character of combat: 

  1. manpower, 
  2. weaponry, 
  3. and maneuver. 

Late in the twentieth century, warfare evolved into the fourth generation, which is defined as "an evolved form of insurgency that employs all available networks—political, economic, social, and military—to persuade an opponent's decision-makers that their strategic goals are either unattainable or too costly."  

Furthermore, according to 4 GW, these changes in the character of warfare were triggered by a combination of' major political, economic, social, and technological developments' that occurred prior to each revolution. 

Without naming it, proponents of 4 GW mirror Michael Roberts' notion of 'Military Revolution,' which was proposed in the late s and later explored by military historians and strategists such as Clifford Rogers, Geoffrey Parker, Max Boot, Williamson Murray, and others. 

The Napoleonic Wars of the early nineteenth century, according to Thomas Hammes, one of the most famous proponents of 4 GW, were the pinnacle of first-generation warfare. 

  • These battles were a culmination of various events necessary for the shift from feudal knights to the Napoleonic Grande Armée in the Middle Ages. 
  • While the first and most obvious aspect that allowed for the culmination of the use of massed manpower was the development of reliable firearms and effective artillery, the most important developments were 'the political system, wealth-generating national economies, social structures, and technologies capable of sustaining the mass armies of the Napoleonic era.' 
  • To put it another way, it took over  200 years for medieval warfare to evolve into the first generation of modern warfare, which was fueled by "major changes in the political, economic, social, and technical institutions of the period."  
  • This insight isn't very novel, since military historians have proposed similar theories decades before the 4 GW term was introduced. 

However, comprehending the 4 GW hypothesis requires an awareness of the features of the first generation of modern warfare as described by Lind, Hammes, and others. 

  • 'Line-and-column' tactics, in which 'battles were formal and the battlefield was orderly,' are the most notable feature of first-generation warfare. 
  • The importance of this generation of warfare, according to Lind, stems from the fact that "the battlefield of order created a military culture of order," as "most things that distinguish military from civilians—uniforms, saluting, careful gradation of rank—were products of the First Generation and intended to reinforce the culture of order." 
  •  The 'battlefield of order' reached its pinnacle in the nineteenth century, and then began to crumble. 
  • Armies were more inspired by nationalistic ideologies in the years that followed, and the development of new military technology such as rifled muskets, breech-loading rifles, and machine guns rendered 'line-and-column' tactics obsolete. 
  • As a result, "the orderly culture that was compatible with the environment in which it worked has become more at odds with it." 

The advent of the second generation of warfare, like the first, was caused by a mix of social, political, and technical developments, according to proponents of the GW thesis. 

  • On the one hand, improved state efficacy, industrialization, more technologically sophisticated armament, as well as advancements in transportation, communication, agriculture, and health, as well as a massive rise in population, allowed for the recruitment of massive armies. 
  • On the other hand, the rise of nationalism, particularly during and after the Napoleonic Wars, sparked a patriotic impulse among citizens of nation states, leading to the conscription of millions of men; this period of second-generation warfare would eventually culminate in the catastrophic losses suffered during the First World War. 
  •  'From the early battles of the US Civil War to the battlefields of South Africa and the trenches of the Far East, war provided repeated, clear examples of the effect that political, economic, social, and technological changes were having on warfare.'  

Whereas the first generation of warfare was characterized by the 'line-and-column' approach, which needed a large number of soldiers to deploy, the second generation of warfare 'sought a solution in mass firepower, the majority of which was indirect artillery fire.' 

In other words, new military technology resulted in two interrelated transformations:

  • lateral dispersion of troops on the battlefield and unparalleled firepower concentration. 

Unlike the first transition, which destroyed the military culture of order that had been developed during the preceding generation of conflict, the second transformation not only retained but even elevated the relevance of this military culture. 

In a 'conducted combat,' where the commander was, in effect, the conductor of an orchestra, centrally controlled weaponry was meticulously coordinated (using comprehensive, specific plans and order) for infantry, tanks, and artillery. 

  • As a result, the emphasis shifted inside, to rules, processes, and procedures. 
  • Obeyance was valued more than initiative. 
  • Initiative was actually discouraged since it jeopardized synchronization. 
  • Discipline was enforced from the top down. 

Although technology drove the shift from the first to the second generation of warfare, the fundamental driving factor behind the advent of the third generation of warfare, according to Lind and his co-authors, was conceptual in character. 

These were new strategies that broke the stalemate of attrition imposed by the second-generation of warfare, while the primary technologies of third-generation warfare were developed during the First World War: 

'Aware that they couldn't win a material battle, the Germans devised bold new tactics.' 

The first really nonlinear tactics were third generation tactics, which were based on maneuver rather than attraction.'  

While the previous two generations of modern warfare centered on 'close with and destroy' and 'placing steel on target,' the third generation's slogan was 'bypass and collapse,' according to Lind. 

Furthermore, whilst second-generation warfare fragmented the forces' order while keeping the culture of order, third-generation warfare, focused on fast-maneuver tactics, rendered this culture obsolete: 

The emphasis of a Third Generation Military is outward, on the circumstance, the opponent, and the outcome that the situation demands, rather than inside, on process and technique. 

  • The outcome to be reached was always indicated in the order, but never the means. 
  • Obeyance was less crucial than initiative. … The Kaiserheer and the Wehrmacht could put on grand displays, but they had shattered the orderly culture. 

The creation of the third generation of warfare, like the first and second, was not a rapid shift, but rather a steady evolution through time, with each force evolving at its own pace. 

  •  Lind, for example, chastised the US military in  for failing to go beyond the second generation of warfare: Second Generation warfare is important today since the US Army and USMC learnt Second Generation combat from the French during and after World War I... 
  • Although aviation has largely supplanted artillery as the primary source of weaponry, the US military today is as French as white wine and cheese (despite the USMC's stated doctrine of Third Generation maneuver warfare). 

The authors of the 4 GW theory focused on two things when describing the fourth generation of modern warfare (i.e. contemporary warfare): 

  • (1) projecting the characteristics of previous transformations onto the future nature of fourth-generation war; and 
  • (2) observing current social, political, economic, and technological changes that have influenced the development of fourth-generation warfare. 

On the one hand, proponents of the GW hypothesis identify numerous features of warfare that have evolved and advanced from one generation to the next by examining the evolution of past generations. 

Lind emphasizes four important themes that drove earlier transitions in his original study. 

  • According to Lind, each generational shift was marked by a greater dispersion of the battlefield, a reduction in reliance on centralized logistics, a focus on smaller units with greater maneuverability, and a growing need to undermine the enemy's internal power rather than seeking physical destruction. 

  • As Hammes summarizes the first three generations, each successive generation pushed farther into the enemy's domain in an attempt to vanquish him. 

  • If 4 GW is a logical step forward, it must delve far deeper into the enemy's troops in order to win... 
    • In reality, 4 GW has developed to place a strong emphasis on the enemy's rear. 
    • It focuses on destroying the enemy's political will to fight in a direct manner. 

  • Furthermore, according to Hammes, the rate of change is quickening: 
    • The evolution of first-generation warfare takes hundreds of years. 
    • In the  years between Waterloo and Verdun, second-generation warfare developed and peaked. 

In fewer than  years, the third generation reached adulthood. Clearly,  years later, 4 GW cannot be the leading edge of conflict. 

  • Hammes, Lind, and others, on the other hand, emphasis on the social, economic, political, and technical developments that have occurred since WWII's conclusion in their descriptions of the fourth generation of combat. 
  • Proponents of GW have claimed that major societal changes such as globalisation, the proliferation of international organizations and NGOs, economic growth, and new communication and transportation technologies have influenced the nature of warfare, thus constituting the defining characteristics of the modern way of war. 
  • Hammes argues that, due to geopolitical, social, economic, and technological changes, the nature of war shifted from an industrial age focus on the destruction of the enemy's armed forces to an information age focus on changing the minds of the enemy's politicos since ,' focusing in particular on the cases of the Chinese Communist Revolution, the Vietnam War, and the Al-Aqsa Intifada. 

The supporters of 4 GW theory emphasize three important aspects of fourth-generation warfare by combining these two understandings (the general tendencies of prior intergenerational transitions and social developments since ). 

  • First, they believe that fourth-generation warfare would be "widely distributed and essentially undefined; the boundary between war and peace will be blurred to vanishing point," based on battlefield dispersion patterns. 
  • Second, "when the opponent's political infrastructure and civilian society become battlefield objectives," the tactical and strategic levels "will merge."  
  • Finally, because fourth-generation warfare is about political will to fight rather than physical combat, 'all available networks—political, economic, social, and military— [will be used] to persuade the enemy's political decision-makers that their strategic goals are either unattainable or too expensive for the perceived benefits.'  

In other words, modern warfare is "an evolved form of insurgency, rooted in the fundamental precept that superior political will, when properly employed, can defeat greater economic and military power," and it "makes use of society's networks to carry on its fight" directly by attacking "the minds of the enemy's decision-makers," according to 4 GW proponents. 

Several scholars have pointed out a number of flaws in the 4 GW idea. 

One issue with the notion, according to Antulio Echevarria, author of Fourth-Generation War and Other Myths, is that it exaggerates the importance of insurgency in contemporary conflicts: 

  • "There is no necessity to reinvent the wheel when it comes to insurgencies, super or otherwise," he says. 
  • There has already been a lot of solid work done... on that subject, including the implications that globalization and information technology have had, are having, and will have on such movements. 
  • We don't need another another term or a jumbled supporting reasoning to hide what many have previously said. 

According to Echevarria, the second flaw of GW theory is that it has a too limited emphasis on insurgency, which not only ignores the role of national governments in contemporary wars but also provides very little in the way of answers. 

While the use of various non-military powers (political, economic, social, etc.) in war is not a new phenomenon: 

The basic issue, which even GW proponents ignore, is how to coordinate many types of power, each of which functions in its own manner and on its own timeframe, to accomplish certain goals while avoiding the most heinous of unintended consequences.

~ Jai Krishna Ponnappan

You may also want to read and learn more about Global Geo Politics, Conflicts, And Conflict Resolution here.

Sources, References & Further Reading:

  • Hoffman, Frank, Conflict in the 21st Century: The Rise of Hybrid Warfare, Arlington: Potomac Institute for Policy Studies, 2007, p. 14.
  • For example: Nemeth, William, ‘Future War and Chechnya: A Case for Hybrid Warfare’, PhD diss., Monterey, Naval Postgraduate School, 2002; Morelock, Jerry, ‘Washington as Strategist: Compound Warfare in the American Revolution, 1775–1783’, in Huber, Thomas (ed.), Compound Warfare: That Fatal Knot, Fort Leavenworth: Combat Studies Institute, US Army Command and General Staff College, 2002, p. 78.
  • Qiao, Liang and Xiangsui Wang, Unrestricted Warfare: China’s Master Plan to Destroy America, Panama City: Pan American Publishing Company, 2002.
  • Scobell, Andrew, ‘Introduction to Review Essays on “Unrestricted Warfare”’, Small Wars and Insurgencies, 11, 1 (Spring 2000), pp. 112–13; Cheng, Dean, ‘Unrestricted Warfare: Review Essay II’, Small Wars and Insurgencies, 11, 1 (Spring 2000), pp. 122–9.
  • Thomas Moorer cited on the back cover of Qiao and Wang, Unrestricted Warfare.
  • Bunker, Robert, ‘Unrestricted Warfare: Review Essay II’, Small Wars and Insurgencies, 11, 1 (Spring 2000), pp. 114.
  • Luman, Ronald (ed.), Unrestricted Warfare Symposium 2006: Proceedings on Strategy, Analysis, and Technology, Laurel, MD: Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, 2006; Luman, (ed.), Unrestricted Warfare Symposium 2008: Proceedings on Combating the Unrestricted Warfare Threat; Integrating Strategy, Analysis, and Technology, Laurel, MD: Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, 2008.
  • Qiao and Wang, Unrestricted Warfare, p. 155.
  • Hoffman, Conflict in the 21st Century, p. 22.
  • Qiao and Wang, Unrestricted Warfare, p. xxi.
  • Bunker, ‘Unrestricted Warfare: Review Essay II’; Van Messel, John, ‘Unrestricted Warfare: A Chinese Doctrine for Future Warfare?’, Master’s thesis, Marine Corps University, Quantico, 2005.
  • Qiao and Wang, Unrestricted Warfare, p. 48.
  • Lind, William, et al., ‘The Changing Face of War: Into the Fourth Generation’, Marine Corps Gazette (October 1989), pp. 22–6.
  • Van Creveld, Martin, On Future War, London: Brasseys, 1991.
  • Huntington, Samuel, The Clash of Civilisations and the Remaking of World Order, London: Simon and Schuster, 1997.
  • For example: Terriff, Terry, Aaron Karp and Regina Karp, (eds), Global Insurgency and the Future of Armed Conflict, New York: Routledge Press, 2007; Hammes, Thomas, The Sling and the Stone: On War in the 21st Century, St. Paul, MN: Zenith Press, 2004; Benbow, Tim, ‘Talking ’Bout Our Generation? Assessing the Concept of “Fourth Generation Warfare”’, Comparative Strategy, 27, 2 (2008), pp. 148–63.
  • Echevarria, Antulio, Fourth Generation War and Other Myths, Carlisle, PA: Strategic Studies Institute, 2005.
  • Lind, William, ‘Understanding Fourth Generation War’, Military Review (September–October 2004), p. 12.
  • Echevarria, Fourth Generation War and Other Myths, p. v.
  • Hammes, Sling and the Stone, p. 16.
  • Rogers, Clifford (ed.), The Military Revolution Debate: Readings on the Military Transformation of Early Modern Europe, Oxford: Westview Press, 1995; Parker, Geoffrey, The Military Revolution: Military Innovation and the Rise of the West, 1500–1800, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988; Boot, Max, War Made New: Technology, Warfare and the Course of History, 1500 to Today, New York: Gotham Books, 2006; Murray, Williamson and Macgregor Knox (eds), The Dynamics of Military Revolution 1300–2050, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001.
  • Hammes, Sling and the Stone, pp. 17, 18.
  • For example: Rogers, Military Revolution Debate; Parker, Military Revolution.
  • Lind, ‘Understanding Fourth Generation War’, p. 12.
  • Lind et al., ‘Changing Face of War’, p. 23; also see Hammes, Sling and the Stone, pp. 22–31.
  • Lind, ‘Understanding Fourth Generation War’, p. 13.
  • Hammes, Thomas, ‘War Evolves into the Fourth Generation’, Contemporary Security Policy, 26, 2 (2005), p. 197.
  • Hammes, ‘War Evolves into the Fourth Generation’, p. 206.
  • Echevarria, Fourth Generation War and Other Myths, p. 16.
  • Huber, Thomas, ‘Napoleon in Spain and Naples: Fortified Compound Warfare’, in C610: The Evolution of Modern Warfare, Term I Syllabus/Book of Readings, Fort Leavenworth: Combat Studies Institute, US Army Command and General Staff College, 1997.
  • Huber, Thomas, ‘Compound Warfare: A Conceptual Framework’, in Huber, Compound Warfare, p. 1.
  • Roberts, Michael, ‘The Military Revolution, 1560–1660’, in Rogers, Military Revolution Debate.
  • See Morelock, Jerry, ‘Washington as Strategist: Compound Warfare in the American Revolution’ in Huber, Compound Warfare; Baumann, Robert, ‘Compound War Case Study: The Soviets in Afghanistan’, in Huber, Compound Warfare.
  • Hoffman, Conflict in the 21st Century, pp. 25–6.
  • Rumsfeld, Donald, ‘The National Defense Strategy of the United States of America’, Washington, DC, March 2005, p. v.