Academic journal article Strategic Review for Southern Africa

6/2005: Challenges in Modern Warfare *

Academic journal article Strategic Review for Southern Africa

6/2005: Challenges in Modern Warfare *

Article excerpt


The challenges of globalisation are continually intensifying and creating a more complicated global interconnectedness resulting in a greater internationalisation whilst simultaneously creating disconnectedness mainly among the emerging nations and also other trans-national states as well. A significant cause of this disconnectedness stems from a lack of understanding of beliefs and cultures as they relate to their resistance to change. Thomas Nagel captures the thought that if a belief in the world outside our minds comes so naturally to us, perhaps we don't need grounds for it. We can just let it be and hope that we are right. And that in fact is what most people do after giving up an attempt to prove it: even if they can't give reasons against scepticism, they can't live with it either. But this means that we hold on to most of our ordinary beliefs about the world despite the fact that they might be completely false and we have no basis for ruling out that possibility. (1) So we are left with three questions:

--Is it a meaningful possibility that the inside of your mind is the only thing that exists, or that even if there is a world outside your mind, it is totally unlike what you believe it to be?

--If these things are possible, do you have any way of proving to yourself that they are not actually true?

--If you can't prove that anything exists outside your mind, is it all right to go on believing in the external world anyway?

Therefore, the disconnectedness between global societies resulting from globalisation and other geo-political factors is in my view one of the main causes of fourth generation warfare. As warfare makes its transition from linear to non-linear warfare, marking various generations of warfare, the issues of these disconnected societies will form the basis for future strategy development.


The overall thesis in this paper explains that if we look at the challenges of warfare in the modern era, we see these challenges transitioning over three distinct generations. Third generation warfare was conceptually developed by the German offensive in the spring of 1918. It is now more than 80 years old. A new challenge has emerged as a result of the demise of the Soviet Union, followed by the events of 11 September 2001 (9/11) generating several interesting questions. (2) I personally believe we are now in a fourth generation of warfare and at the threshold of a fifth generation. If so, how will it continue to evolve? How will it affect the alliance structure and more importantly how will the world be divided or categorised? How do we define the enemy? These questions are of central importance Whoever is first to recognise, understand, and implement a strategy based on a new generational change can gain the decisive advantage. Conversely, a nation that is slow to adapt to generational change opens itself to catastrophic defeat. (3)

The purpose of this paper is to present some new concepts that address these issues. Nonetheless, some tentative answers will be discussed. In order to fully understand this generational transformation and begin to see what these might be, we need to review the relevant history.


While military development is generally a continuous evolutionary process, the modern era has witnessed three watersheds in which change has been mostly qualitative. Up to the demise of the Soviet Union, modern military development comprises three distinct generations.

First generation warfare in the 18th and 19th century reflects tactics of the era of the smoothbore musket, the tactics of line and column. These tactics were developed partially in response to technological factors and partially in response to social conditions and ideas, for instance, the columns of the French revolutionary armies reflected both the elan of the revolution and the low training levels of conscripted troops. …

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