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Reexamining Fourth Generation War as a Paradigm for Future War
ARMY COMMAND AND GENERAL STAFF COLLEGE FORT LEAVENWORTH KS SCHOOL OF ADVANCED MILITARY STUDIES
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Since 1989, Fourth Generation War 4GW has served as a popular heuristic for understanding the contemporary operating environment and related developments in warfare. First proposed by a group of military theorists led by William Lind, 4GW rested on three interconnected claims first, the nation-state faces a universal crisis of legitimacy second, intrastate war has increased in frequency and intensity in response to state decline and third, interstate war has become obsolete in the face of nuclear weapons and international norms against aggressive war. This monograph examines all three claims through a compare and contrast methodology. Each section lays out a 4GW claim, establishes evaluation criteria, and then contrasts the 4GW claim with alternative explanations derived from political science literature. This monograph finds that 4GW theorists do not accurately describe the contemporary operating environment, nor do they recognize or account for significant continuities in war and politics over the last three centuries. When reexamined within a longer time horizon, patterns of intrastate and interstate warfare after 1945 demonstrate significant continuity, casting doubt on 4GWs explanatory and predictive value as a paradigm for future war.
APPROVED FOR PUBLIC RELEASE