Fifth-generation warfare and global challenges


 AUG 13, 2022 – DAILY SABAH

(Shutterstock Photo)

(Shutterstock Photo)

Generations of war have evolved to a stage more dangerous than ever before

Unfortunately, wars have a critical and undeniable role in great transformations in world history. The rise, stagnation and fall of civilizations and empires have always been guided by wars. From ancient times up until today, the wars that shaped world history have experienced five generations of change.

Generations of war

First-generation warfare refers to the battles of the ancient period that were fought with hand-to-hand combat. In these conflicts, each party bears the symbol of their state or tribe on their flag and uniform. Weapons like swords, spears and bludgeons were used while soldiers were arranged in phalanx, line and column formations as tactics.

Second-generation warfare is a period characterized mainly by “fire and gunpowder.” This period follows the ancient period and is a time of advancement in war tactics. These new methods are implemented in battle while gunpowder, rifled muskets and breech-loading weapons are introduced.

If second-generation warfare is classified as “early modern warfare” then third-generation warfare can be classified as the beginning of “modern warfare.” This period of modern warfare can be defined as the period when air forces and long-range weapons are introduced and the wars start to move from the front lines deeper into territories, such as where civilians live. World War II is the most indisputable example of third-generation warfare.

This period witnessed a shift from the traditional two-front wars to conflicts in which civilians were also affected in order to demoralize the other side. The warring countries tried to squash the morale of the other’s civilians in order to defuse a country’s war power; it is also a period in which the brutality and savagery of war moved beyond the front lines and residential areas were brutally bombed.

Fourth-generation warfare was a new phase that was witnessed in the Gulf War and the disintegration of the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. It was a period in which civilian casualties outnumbered those of front-line soldiers, “guerilla” tactics gained more importance and paramilitary groups and terrorist organizations were even being used as subcontractors. The “proxy wars” of this period stand out as countries began to hire and arm subcontractors to do their bidding in the field.

Fifth-generation warfare

Fifth-generation warfare is the most dangerous stage to this day. It is a stage that seriously threatens the hopes of global peace in the 21st century and the struggle for a sustainable world.

It is a period in which countries attempt to take each other down through digital operations rather than military conflicts. Cyberattacks and manipulations are rampant while social engineering and disinformation plague the internet.

In this period of fifth-generation warfare, countries are fighting wars of “information and perception.” It is a period in which countries are waging commercial, financial, economic, digital and energy-based wars against one another. In the midst of such a complex and frightening period of “imbalance” and “uncertainty,” Türkiye is a country that gives hope to Eurasia while bearing the responsibility of transforming the world in a positive way and consolidating its deterrence power.

Therefore, Türkiye will continue to plot the course for 2023 and beyond in the best way for a brighter future.


Kerem Alkin is an economist, professor at Istanbul Medipol University. He currently serves as the Turkish Permanent Representative to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).


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