William Lind recently attacked the concept of fifth-generation warfare (the only well-accepted generation of modern warfare he did not first describe) as follows:
Between February 8 and February 14, four American schools suffered attacks by lone gunmen. The most recent, at Northern Illinois University on February 14, saw five killed (plus the gunman) and 16 wounded. Similar attacks have occurred elsewhere, including shopping malls.
Is this war? I donâ€™t think so. Some proponents of â€œFifth Generation war,â€ which they define as actions by â€œsuperempowered individuals,â€ may disagree. But these incidents lack an ingredient I think necessary to warâ€™s definition, namely purpose. In Fourth Generation War, the purpose of warlike acts reaches beyond the state and politics, but actions, including massacres of civilians, are still purposeful. They serve an agenda that reaches beyond individual emotions, an agenda others can and do share and fight for. In contrast, the mental and emotional states that motivate lone gunmen are knowable to them alone.
The whole â€œFifth Generationâ€ thesis is faulty, in any case. However small the units that fight wars may become, down to the â€œsuperempowered individual,â€ that shrinkage alone is not enough to mark a new generation.
Lind has earned sympathy from Shlok Vaidya, however, who has previously described 5GW as “an incoherent amalgam of a variety of perspectives.” However, as Shlok’s definition (“the emergent pattern formed by a distributed multitude of empowered individuals acting in concert by acting in their own self interest, without any collaboration“) argues that 5GW is not competitive-cooperative, his concept of 5GW is not war at all.