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GENERATIONS OF WARFARE
The concept of four “generations” in the history of modern warfare was created by a team of United States analysts, including William S. Lind, for the purpose of an argument for “the changing face of war” entering into a “fourth generation”.
- First-generation warfare refers to Ancient and Post-classical battles fought with massed manpower, using line and column tactics with uniformed soldiers governed by the state.
Second-generation warfare is the Early modern tactics used after the invention of the rifled musket and breech-loading weapons and continuing through the development of the machine gun and indirect fire. The term second generation warfare was created by the U.S. military in 1989.
Third-generation warfare focuses on using Late modern technology-derived tactics of leveraging speed, stealth and surprise to bypass the enemy’s lines and collapse their forces from the rear. Essentially, this was the end of linear warfare on a tactical level, with units seeking not simply to meet each other face to face but to outmaneuver each other to gain the greatest advantage.
Fourth-generation warfare as presented by Lind et al. is characterized by “Post-modern” a return to decentralized forms of warfare, blurring of the lines between war and politics, combatants and civilians due to nation states’ loss of their near-monopoly on combat forces, returning to modes of conflict common in pre-modern times.