4th Generation Warfare

998 Words Mar 16th, 2011 4 Pages
The Problem with Fourth-Generation War Antulio J. Echevarria II Strategic Studies Institute

For theorists of Fourth Generation War (4GW), there’s both good news and bad news. The good news is that there is only one problem with the notion of 4GW. The bad news is that the theory itself is the problem. Like the fabled emperor who had no clothes, 4GW is bereft of any intellectual garments: the concept itself is fundamentally and hopelessly flawed. It is based on poor history and only obscures what other theorists and analysts have already clarified. Although the idea of 4GW emerged in the late 1980s, it has gained considerable popularity of late, particularly as a result of recent twists in the war in Iraq. It is worth a moment, therefore,
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Third, by comparing what essentially amounts to military means or techniques—such as massed manpower, firepower, and maneuver—on the one hand, to what is arguably a form of warfare— such as insurgency—on the other, the advocates 4GW only bait us with a proverbial apples-versus-oranges sleight-of-hand. In other words, they establish a false comparison by which they wish us to conclude that most of the wars of the modern age, which they claim were characterized by firepower or maneuver, were narrowly focused on military power and, unlike the superinsurgencies of the information age, rarely involved the integration of political, economic, and social power. Yet, even a cursory review of the Napoleonic, and the First and Second World Wars reveals that this is not true. Political, social, and economic capabilities were, in many cases, employed to the


maximum extent possible. Some historians, in fact, go so far as to maintain that the First and Second World Wars were, in effect, examples of “total” war precisely because of the extent to which the major combatants mobilized the elements of their national power. Even the theoretical offshoots of Net-centric warfare, which 4GW rejects, recognize the need to integrate all the elements of national power in the pursuit of strategic aims. Finally, there is no reason to reinvent the wheel with regard to insurgency as an effective form of war. A great deal of very good work has already been done,
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