Jackson, P. (2007). Are Africa’s Wars Part of a Fourth Generation of Warfare?, Contemporary Security Policy, 28:2, 267 – 285. DOI: 10.1080/13523260701489826 Available online: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13523260701489826
Steve Pampinella, a friend of this blog, sent me a link to a very solid article, which wonders of the African Wars should be considered as part of the fourth generation of modern war (4GW). First some excerpts from the conclusion, and then my thoughts:
All of these wars exhibit characteristics that would seem to fit 4GW theory, including chaotic modes of warfare, looting, atrocities against civilians, and cultural approaches to power. However, there is significant evidence that African wars follow pre-colonial patterns of warfare, not new patterns, and that conflict in Africa has taken on a number of additional, modern characteristics including the use of modern weaponry and media and communications…
In terms of policy, what an application of 4GW to Africa shows is that any approach to conflict resolution must be far broader than a military approach, and must take into account cultural and socio-political approaches…
The 4GW theoretical model of the evolution of warfare may not be applicable to Africa in the same way that it may or may not be applicable to Europe, but it does highlight the idea that African wars are exhibiting similar processes to those currently seen in different asymmetric wars.
The short answer is No, the African wars are not 4GW. The African wars tend not to be state-centered, but that is because they are before-the-state, not after-the-state.
Africa’s wars are pre-modern wars, or “0GW.” Simply put, the continent of Africa is too backwards when it comes to organization to indigineously host the sort of wars that the rest of the world takes for granted. Part of the reason for Africa’s inability to organizer higher generational (and less bloddy) wars is clearly cultural: a destroyed cultural infrastructure in one generation hardly helps the next! Another is bioneurological: the low intelligence of African populations due to malnutrition, disease, etc. But whatever the cause, referring to the pre-modern African wars as “4GW” demonstrates a poor understanding of both Africa and 4GW.