Maybe it’s Contemporary Warfare (or maybe it’s Maybelline.)

What? War? I thought we were in a time of world peace (sort of)?

And uhm… make-up? I’m confused…

Well, supposedly this is the closest we’ve gotten to world peace. Commonly referred to as ”relative peace” or ”long” peace. It’s based on the idea that war for conquest is pretty much obsolete, punitive wars are nearly gone too and all the colonial wars have ended (*cough*). This leaves civil wars, most of which have cooled down over the years. The term ”long peace” marks the time from after the second world war, to the present day, due to the absence of major (obvious) wars between the dominating powers of the period aka the USA and Russia (previously USSR). Such a long period of ”relative” peace between major powers hadn’t been documented since the Roman Empire.

Major ”in your face”-wars, the ”blowing citys into smithereens” kinda wars might be over (it’s not, major citys in various countrys in the middle east are war zones, and we’ve got groups of people immigrating en masse) but from the toning down of guns and loud air-raids, we’ve seen the rise of a new form of warfare, namely the title of the piece, Contemporary Warfare (que off-key horns).

Technically, modern warfare isn’t that new, because the term covers everything after the gunpowder revolution (c. 1300- 1650) to now lol. So… how do we narrow it down to what I’m here to focus on? Well, luckily (modern) warfare tactics are divided into 5 generations, each generations set of tactics generally influenced by whatever was relevant at the time (so like guns from 1300’s and forward vs mounts and sharp things basically every generation before that). In this piece I’ll focus on 4th and 5th generation tactics, but if this is the first time you’re hearing about any of this, here you can read about the remaining generations.

Starting with the 4th generation (4GW), these tactics are characterized by a return to decentralized forms of warfare. Meaning here it might be hard to spot who’s fighting who and when/where the actual war in taking place, blurring the lines between war, politics, soldiers and civilians. A classic example includes any war where one of the major participants is not a state/recognized government, but rather a non-state actor. If we look at the Cold War, major powers fought to regain grip over some of their previous colonies, and with the non-state entities representing said colonies lacking muscle power to fight back, other methods became essential. Movements were created, propaganda was spread, espionage, secrecy, surprise attacks or means of terror were used to fill the obvious gap in raw muscle. The tactics themselves aren’t new, you’ll see similar tactics in previous slave rebellions or anywhere else where there’s a huge power-gap.

The 5th generation (5GW) is like a semi-continuation of 4GW. They share many similarities, and since it’s under development right now the definition itself isn’t quite finished, but so far 5th generation war is characterized by the usage of propaganda and information tactics, in hopes of accomplishing strategic, operational, and tactical objectives, without measurable damage that can be identified by the target. The goal is for the target to not know they’ve been attacked, resulting in loss before the fight’s even begun. If you google 5GW you’ll be presented with a number of pieces on Al Qaeda since these tactics are most commonly associated with terrorist organisations.

5GW espoused by the likes of Al Qaeda, with aspirations of setting up alternative political systems. They’re opportunists, intent only on destruction. But even pointless violence can have a perverse logic, for the sudden, irrational destruction undermines the idea that nations are viable in the modern world.

US Army Major Shannon Beebe, Wired (magazine) 2009

Alright alright, so now I understand the current generation of warfare, when do we get to the part where you explain why we’re talking about this?

– Right about now.

I chose modern warfare as my topic this week because these same tactics are all around us, and they’re being used on the daily by several other countries, organisations and companies. Not for the sake of terrorism, but for the sake of power. These tactics aren’t terrorist exclusive, and more common than most of us might think. Let me give you an example that ties to my meme-esque title. Earlier I wrote that this generation is characterized by the usage of propaganda and information tactics, in hopes of accomplishing strategic, operational, and tactical objectives. What if the tactical objective isn’t to take your city, but to take your money? Maybe it’s contemporary warfare, or maybe it’s Maybelline, is a play on the commercial slogan ”Maybe she’s born with it, or maybe it’s Maybelline”, by the cosmetics company by the same name. Most people have heard or seen it around, if not in an actual make-up commercial, then as a meme, since the slogan gained popularity for being catchy and easily meme-able. The company’s intention might not’ve been to go viral, but it was definitely intended to be stick. Just memorable enough, so it’ll stick around to the point where when I’m trying to think of a title, this is what I crawls up from the pits of my brain. It was also most likely the culprit behind why 14 year old me (subconsciously) thought it was a good idea to buy their shitty foundation. Objective accomplished.

A lot of the people reading this now, probably have that same phrase resting in your mind. It’s not that big of a deal, I guess, just a make-up add. However, if a catchy phrase can make you subconsciously favor one brand over another, what’s saying the same can’t be done with political partys? Or decisions in referendums? Or make you leave personal information up for grabs for the ability to virtually befriend people? This is how easy it could be to push an incentive. An alternative humorous title to this piece could’ve been – Capitalism’s invisible ”war” for your monetary favor. I say humorous because calling it war sounds like a click-bait scandal.

Nonetheless, let’s get to the conclusion.

The generations of warfare tactics reflect the times during which they were developed. It might be easy to think of war as heavy guns and infantry, but that’s not what the new tactics of our generation will look like, because it doesn’t reflect the big players of our generation, which is globalization, an information overload and favoring efficiency (I haven’t even touched on the internets role really, so that’ll be a beast for another day). Weapons and muscle are always gonna be relevant, for the fear they instill and damage they do, but if you can win people over by re-wiring them to think like you, or (as a reference back to the quote) undermine the viability of their nation, people wont even notice they switched sides, you’ll win masses without bloodshed, reserve immense amounts of energy (and it’ll take less to start a war too).

The lines between fields of study are getting blurrier, as we progress into a future of less black and white areas of discipline whilst adding more gray. So, what I wanted to share with this was the value of perspective through these examples, as well as the relevance of staying up to date on things that you initially might think doesn’t concern you. The world is becoming increasingly intertwined and time waits for no one. If you’re asleep, somebody is going to make your decisions for you. Just like how that catchy commercial made my decision for me.






Interesting articles and links:

Long Peace

World Peace

Contemporary war: Ethnic conflict, resource conflict or something else?

Modern Warfare

Gunpowder Revolution

Generations of warfare

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