Every day we hear about the generations of warfare particularly the fifth generation warfare on social media, various TV channels and talk shows. There is also a heated discussion over the fifth generation war in various debates. The word is often used in a way that deviates from its original meaning. Wars are divided into different generations of warfare based on their method of fighting and the different weapons used in them.
In this piece of construct, focusing on the generations of warfare, we’ll be looking at: what is the fifth generation war? What were the four generations of wars before that? Who gave this concept of generations of warfare and which wars have been included in which generation?
First Generation War
Human history is full of wars. In the beginning these wars were fought with swords, then there was innovation in weapons and swords were replaced by modern weapons and then the time of nuclear wars.
Generations of war concept was coined by William S. Lind, an American analyst in the 1980s. Most of the credit for classification of the wars goes to William. William has divided wars since the Treaty of Westphalia into four generations. The era of first generation war begins in 1648 with the Treaty of Westphalia. The treaty ended religious wars in Europe. These wars were fought between Catholic and Protestant sects and their allies for about 30 years from 1618 to 1648. As a result of these religious wars, more than six million people died.
Following the treaty, the right to declare war was now vested to the King of the State instead of the Church. The era of first generation war goes from 1648 to 1860. Ranks were also used during this period to divide the troops into units. Classification rules and organized fighting rules were also made. Military uniforms were also introduced in this generation. Fighting by making lines and columns has been part of first generation wars tactics.
These battles have been fought face to face on the battlefield and horses, swords and arrows have been used as weapons in these battles. The commander himself was present at battlefield during these wars. Success in these wars largely depended on manpower. Towards the end of this generation, early rifles began to be used in warfare.
The famous French warrior Napoleon’s wars, also known as the Napolenic Wars, are included in the first generation wars which he fought against the European Powers. The American War of Independence, fought by America against the British Empire and the Mexican War of Independence, fought against Spain, are included in the First Generation of Wars.
Second Generation War
Second generation of warfare included features of first generation warfare but with the advancement of technology, swords were replaced by early modern weapons such as rifles, machine guns and cannons in the second generation warfare. Now the battlefield has dispersed. Now fighting face to face as well as attacking the enemy from a distance became possible.
The use of radio communication further organized the method of warfare. It would not be wrong to say that technology was the main difference between first generation and second generation. The success in this generation of wars depended largely on modern weapons over the number of troops. The element of manpower which was considered a guarantee of success in the wars of the first generation was no longer important. Instead, artillery and ammunition became more important.
These wars started in the late nineteenth century and some wars are still fought in this way in different parts of the world. World War I is included in the wars fought in the style of the second generation of wars. In addition, the American Civil War is included in the second generation wars which was fought between the various states of the United States from 1861 to 1865.
Third Generation War
The element of manpower was essential for success in first generation wars, while it was replaced by firepower in second generation wars – one of the most prominent generations of warfare. With the advancement of technology in the third generation wars, the pace of attacks on the enemy was accelerated. Element of Surprise was also included in this type of wars. Fighter jets, tanks and submarines began to be used.
This era of warfare is used to describe the aggression of war in which a high-speed group of attackers, backed by armored tanks and air force suddenly attacks the enemy in a highly organized and effective manner with excellent planning. Third generation war tactics were first introduced by the Germans in World War II when they took control of Belgium, France, the Netherlands and Luxembourg in just six weeks.
In this type of warfare, the battlefield became more dispersed and on ground officer were allowed to make decisions on the spot. Wars between Pakistan and India are considered as third generation wars. Nuclear weapons have also been used in this generation.
Fourth Generation War
The term fourth generation war was also first used by William S. Lind and a team of American defense analysts in a 1989 article. Fourth generation war is the name given to various war tactics and tactics used over the last few decades. The most dangerous changes in the world are also the result of this war.
This is the generation of war in which it is difficult to distinguish between peace and war. It becomes very difficult to distinguish between an ordinary citizen and a fighter in this warfare. In this generation of war, instead of sending troops to another country, a country starts providing indirect political and economic aid to the insurgents in the enemy country and uses them against their own country, the situation in the enemy country is aggravated by propaganda and guerrilla warfare.
Increasing globalization and technological innovation have provided a dangerous platform for non-state actors. Its best examples are the wars in Syria, Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Fifth Generation War
Fifth generation warfare is one of the generations of warfare that is being discussed these days. The term “Fifth Generation War” was first coined by Robert Steele in 2003. This is the latest form of warfare and is also called the war of perception and information. This is the most dangerous time of war, in which the victim of war do not even know that he is at war and he doesn’t even know if he’s losing or winning and for what and why he is fighting.
In this warfare, mainly through misinformation, people are brainwashed and chaos is created. This task has become much easier in this day and age through social media. Puppet rulers are brought to the enemy country through propaganda, who are later used for their own benefit. Cyber Attacks and the use of various illegal tactics for this purpose are common. This is the most modern and deadly form of warfare that has been made even more dangerous by emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence. This war is also called Cyber War – one of the mostly discussed generations of warfare.
In this his war drones, robotics, and modern machinery is used. This generation of war has become more dangerous than we thought because of innovation and if its mass demonstrations were to be seen anywhere, perhaps new examples of human history would be set and it would be far more damaging than conventional wars.
Some scholars call this war a “Silent War” in which objectives of the war are visible but fighters are not one can say that enemy uses soft powers instead of its hard powers and to fight this war you don’t need a battlefield, it is fought with minds. No army but ordinary people are taking part in this war.
Some experts also have objection to the term fifth generation war. According to William S. Lind who classified first four generations, this is a continuation of the fourth generation war. It cannot be called the next, the fifth generation.
Even today in different parts of the world somewhere and to some extent wars are being fought in the style of all these generations but most of the modern wars are being fought in the style of the fourth and fifth generation which start but does not end.