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FOURTH GENERATION WARFARE
Martin van Creveldâs, The Transformation of War, is easily the most important book on war written in the last quarter-century.
Transformation lays out the basis of Fourth Generation war, the stateâs loss of its monopoly on war and on social organization. In the 21st century, as in all centuries prior to the rise of the nation-state, many different entities will fight war, for many different reasons, not just raison dâetat. Clausewitzâs âtrinityâ of people, government, and army vanishes, as the elements disappear or become indistinguishable from one another. Van Creveld has also written another book, The Rise and Decline of the State, which lays out the historical basis of the theory described in Transformation.â
1 – The stateâs loss of its monopoly on war
2 – The state’s loss of monopoly on social organization.
3 – Return to Pre-Nation-State War: “The War of All Against All”.
GENERATIONS OF WARFARE
âThe Chinese military philosopher Sun Tzu said, âHe who understands himself and understands his enemy will prevail in one hundred battles.â In order to understand both ourselves and our enemies in Fourth Generation conflicts, it is helpful to use the full framework of the Four Generations of modern war.
What are the first three generations?
FIRST GENERATION WARFARE
First Generation war was fought with line and column tactics. It lasted from the Peace of Westphalia until around the time of the American Civil War. Its importance for us today is that the First Generation battlefield was usually a battlefield of order, and the battlefield of order created a culture of order in state militaries. Most of the things that define the difference between âmilitaryâ and âcivilianâ â saluting, uniforms, careful gradations of rank, etc. â are products of the First Generation and exist to reinforce a military culture of order. Just as most state militaries are still designed to fight other state militaries, so they also continue to embody the First Generation culture of order.
The problem is that, starting around the middle of the 19th century, the order of the battlefield began to break down. In the face of mass armies, nationalism that rank, etc. â are products of the First Generation and exist to reinforce a military culture of order. Just as most state militaries are still designed to fight other state militaries, so they also continue to embody the First Generation culture of order.
The problem is that, starting around the middle of the 19th century, the order of the battlefield began to break down. In the face of mass armies, nationalism that made soldiers want to fight, and technological developments such as the rifled musket, the breechloader, barbed wire, and machine guns, the old line-and-column tactics became suicidal. But as the battlefield became more and more disorderly, state militaries remained locked into a culture of order. The military culture that in the First Generation had been consistent with the battlefield became increasingly contradictory to it. That contradiction is one of the reasons state militaries have so much difficulty in Fourth Generation war, where not only is the battlefield disordered, so is the entire society in which the conflict is taking place.
Second Generation war was developed by the French Army during and after World War I. It dealt with the increasing disorder of the battlefield by attempting toâ impose order on it. Second Generation war, also sometimes called firepower/attrition warfare, relied on centrally controlled indirect artillery fire, carefully synchronized with infantry, cavalry and aviation, to destroy the enemy by killing his soldiers and blowing up his equipment. The French summarized Second Generation war with the phrase, âThe artillery conquers, the infantry occupies.â
Second Generation war also preserved the military culture of order. Second Generation militaries focus inward on orders, rules, processes, and procedures. There is a âschool solutionâ for every problem. Battles are fought methodically, so prescribed methods drive training and education, where the goal is perfection of detail in execution. The Second Generation military culture, like the First, values obedience over initiative (initiative is feared because it disrupts synchronization) and relies on imposed discipline.
The United States Army and the U.S. Marine Corps both learned Second Generation war from the French Army during the First World War, and it largely remains the âAmerican way of warâ today.â
âThird Generation war, also called maneuver warfare, was developed by the German Army during World War I. Third Generation war dealt with the disorderly battlefield not by trying to impose order on it but by adapting to disorder and taking advantage of it. Third Generation war relied less on firepower than on speed and tempo. It sought to present the enemy with unexpected and dangerous situations faster than he could cope with them, pulling him apart mentally as well as physically.
The German Armyâs new Third Generation infantry tactics were the first non-linear tactics. Instead of trying to hold a line in the defense, the object was to draw the enemy in, then cut him off, putting whole enemy units âin the bag.â On the offensive, the German âstorm-troop tacticsâ of 1918 flowed like water around enemy strong points, reaching deep into the enemyâs rear area and also rolling his forward units up from the flanks and rear. These World War I infantry tactics, when used by armored and mechanized formations in World War II, became known as âBlitzkrieg.â
Just as Third Generation war broke with linear tactics, it also broke with the First and Second Generation culture of order. Third Generation militaries focus outward on the situation, the enemy, and the result the situation requires. Leaders at every level are expected to get that result, regardless of orders. Military education is designed to develop military judgmentâ, not teach processes or methods, and most training is force-on-force free play because only free play approximates the disorder of combat. Third Generation military culture also values initiative over obedience, tolerating mistakes so long as they do not result from timidity, and it relies on self-discipline rather than imposed discipline, because only self-discipline is compatible with initiative.
When Second and Third Generation war met in combat in the German campaign against France in 1940, the Second Generation French Army was defeated completely and quickly; the campaign was over in six weeks. Both armies had similar technology, and the French actually had more (and better) tanks. Ideas, not weapons, dictated the outcome.â
âDespite the fact that Third Generation war proved its decisive superiority more than 60 years ago, most of the worldâs state militaries remain Second Generation. The reason is cultural: they cannot make the break with the culture of order that the Third Generation requires. This is another reason why, around the world, state-armed forces are not doing well against non-state enemies. Second Generation militaries fight by putting firepower on targets, and Fourth Generation fighters are very good at making themselves untargetable. Virtually all Fourth Generation forces are free of the First Generation culture of order; they focus outward, they prize initiative and, because they are highly decenâtralized, they rely on self-discipline. Second Generation state forces are largely helpless against them.â
Excerpt From: William S. Lind and Gregory A. Thiele. â4th Generation Warfare Handbook.â iBooks.