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Conclusion Fifth-Generation Warfare and Leaderless Resistance Throughout history, various political, social, and technological factors have influenced the development of conflict and warfare. Whereas first-generation warfare involved the amassment of huge forces on the battlefield, the latest generation of warfare—the fifth generation—involves small cells and individuals linked by ideology .The current long-term trend is a miniaturization of forces. Just as technological developments such as the machine gun made large troop formations untenable on the battlefield in second-generation warfare, so do surveillance capabilities, databases , US military dominance, and the changing political environment contribute to the rise of leaderless resistance and the emergence of fifth-generation warfare. By some measures, war and organized violence have declined over the last two decades.Ted Robert Gurr found that fatalities resulting from conflicts have steadily decreased. One reason for this trend is the movement away from wars involving major powers, which have historically been the kind of conflicts to result in massive casualties, because states have enormous destructive capacities typically beyond the reach of nonstate actors. Modern technology has rendered obsolete the total war that was practiced in the early twentieth century.1 Moreover, attitudes on the appropriateness of armed conflict as an instrument of foreign policy and as a way to settle international disputes have fundamentally shifted.2 Over the past few decades, the occurrence of state-to-state armed conflicts has steadily declined. Rupert Smith, a retired general in the British army, asserts that the industrial era of warfare between states is being replaced by war among people, in which political and military developments go hand in hand. War now involves a continuous crisscrossing between political confrontation and armed conflict, with no predefined sequence.3 Although state-to-state conflicts are declining in frequency , much conflict persists within states.4 Since World War II ended, civil wars have become the most frequent kind of war, accounting for roughly two-thirds of all conflicts.5 Although the average lethality of war has declined, civilian fatalities have increased. It is estimated that between eighteen million and twenty-five million civilians have died in civil, international, and colonial wars since 1945.6 Fifth-generation warfare is a kind of “unrestricted warfare” encompassing a full spectrum of mechanisms, conventional and unconventional. A distinguishing characteristic is its leaderlessness. Whereas fourth-generation warfare presupposed a cohesive vanguard that would lead a movement to victory in guerrilla war, fifth155 generation warfare relies on individuals acting with minimum or no direction from a central organization. Two contemporaneous, but contradictory, trends in global politics—integration and fragmentation—are shaping the contours of contemporary global conflict and give rise to leaderless resistance, the viability of which, as a strategic approach, is still a matter for debate. Fifth-Generation Warfare William S. Lind conceptualized a progression of warfare encompassing four generations . Building on this framework,Thomas X. Hammes now believes that a fifth generation of warfare is upon us, driven mainly by technology. He notes major changes since the end of World War II that have influenced contemporary international conflict. For instance, there are now many more actors—both state and nonstate. This proliferation of international players has the cumulative effect of diminishing the power of states.7 Unique to Hammes’s thesis is its consideration of the emergence of new forms of human networks—political, economic, social, and military—and how they can be used to influence a state’s involvement in a conflict. Another important feature in Hammes’s analysis is the elevation of the transnational element. New technology, including cell phones and the Internet, makes networking across state boundaries easier and cheaper than in the past.8 One important social trend that Hammes observes is a change in how communities are formed.Today, many people are shifting allegiances from countries to causes, a development being accelerated by the connectivity of the Internet. Although small groups and individuals espousing extremist and violent views may seem inconsequential, they have the potential to generate destructive power that was previously exclusive to states, as anthrax-laden letters demonstrated in October 2001. According to Hammes, the main characteristics of fifth-generation warfare are the increasing power and capabilities of smaller and smaller entities. He succinctly describes fifth-generation warfare as “nets and jets”: networks that distribute key information, provide necessary resources, and constitute a field from which to recruit prospective volunteers; and airplanes to provide the global, inexpensive, effective means to travel and smuggle weapons.9 In this framework, individuals and...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780826518576
Related ISBN
9780826518552
MARC Record
OCLC
802049025
Pages
272
Launched on MUSE
2012-09-21
Language
English
Open Access
No
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