American Proscenium

Fourth-Generation War Comes to Paris

The terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo staffers provides an important opportunity for us to face a new reality: Fourth-Generation Warfare (4GW) has found a home in France, as well as in the rest of Western Europe and the United States.

According to theorist William Lind, First-Generation Warfare involves massed manpower, such as the Napoleonic clashes; Second-Generation, massed firepower, as in most of World War I.

With the advent of Third-Generation Warfare we see a crucial shift to nonlinear tactics “based on speed and flexibility,” Lind says in his recent book, On War: The Collected Columns of William S. Lind 2003-2009.  Developed by the Germans at the end of World War I, 3GW puts the battle initiative in the hands of the lieutenants and sergeants on the front lines, instead of the generals back at headquarters.  Among U.S. forces, only the Marines have, to a limited extent, shifted to 3GW.

According to Thomas Hobbes and other proponents of state power, everyone gives up some liberty so the sovereign may gain a monopoly of ultimate force to protect the people.  But that isn’t happening anymore, especially in Western countries that are enamored of multiculturalism.  The sovereigns are too politically correct to take action.

The rise of 4GW has come as a result of the weakening of states, who lack the will and sometimes the wherewithal to respond...

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