A response to fourth generation warfare
Date of Issue2010
S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies
Fourth Generation Warfare (4GW) claims that non-state insurgencies are the wave of the future. Furthermore, 4GW is presented as a radically new form of warfare and defeating it thus requires equally radical changes in military organization and thought. This theory is seriously flawed because it says nothing new, exaggerates the characteristics of insurgency and suffers from bad history. Proponents of 4GW such as Martin van Creveld and Thomas X. Hammes inaccurately distinguish insurgency as “political” and “non-Trinitarian”, when in fact both political will and Clausewitz’s Trinity are an integral part of all wars. Insurgency is claimed to be the latest “generation” of warfare. However, a survey of military history shows that warfare did not develop in four clear “generations”. Furthermore, insurgency is as old as warfare itself and its principles have been understood since antiquity. 4GW is thus both inaccurate and unnecessary. We would do well to simply abandon the theory as it is not the solution to dealing with insurgencies. Military thinkers should instead study insurgency within the larger context of history if they wish to understand it.
DRNTU::Social sciences::Military and naval science
RSIS Working Paper ; 211/10