The term was first used in 1989 by a team of United States analysts, including paleoconservative William S. Lind, to describe warfare‘s return to a decentralized form. In terms of generational modern warfare, the fourth generation signifies the nation states‘ loss of their near-monopoly on combat forces, returning to modes of conflict common in pre-modern times.
The simplest definition includes any war in which one of the major participants is not a state but rather a violent non-state actor. Classical examples of this type of conflict, such as the slave uprising under Spartacus, predate the modern concept of warfare.
Fourth-generation warfare is defined as conflicts which involve the following elements:
- Complex and long term
- Terrorism (tactic)
- A non-national or transnational base – highly decentralized
- A direct attack on the enemy’s culture, including genocidal acts against civilians.
- Highly sophisticated psychological warfare and propaganda, especially through media manipulation, internet trolls, bots and lawfare
- All available pressures are used – political, economic, social and military
- Occurs in low intensity conflict, involving actors from all networks
- Non-combatants are tactical dilemmas
- Lack of hierarchy
- Small in size, spread out network of communication and financial support
- Use of insurgency tactics as subversion, terrorism and guerrilla tactics
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The Frankfurt School and Critical Theory – Cultural Marxism