Date of Award


Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Political Science, PhD


School of Social Science, Politics, and Evaluation

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Mark Abdollahian

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Jacek Kugler

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Leif Rosenberger

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Zining Yang

Terms of Use & License Information

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Rights Information

© 2020 Jerry T Sink


4GW, ABM, Fourth Generation Warfare, Guerrilla, Insurgency, Simulation

Subject Categories

International Relations | Military and Veterans Studies | Political Science


Fourth Generation Warfare (4GW) theory shares many characteristics of classical guerrilla warfare (CGW) theory in security studies literature. Proponents claim that 4GW is a revolution in war that overturns traditional measures of military power, while critics counter that 4GW is simply CGW in an updated context. Another group posits Fifth Generation Warfare (5GW), which adds additional information-age technologies and uses “any and all means,” (military and extra-military) to attack both the enemy’s will and capability to resist. The irregular subset of 5GW strategies appear to be an extension of 4GW with the addition of advanced information-age technologies: mobile phones and internet spreading propaganda instantly to friendly groups as well as national and trans-national enemies, while unconventional tactics such as suicide bombings and terrorist actions attempt to drain the will of opponents to continue the fight. The CGW and 4/5GW strategies are modeled in an agent-based simulation to evaluate similarities and differences in speed to victory, territory controlled, and the identity of the winning side. Emergent behaviors are compared with historical data. Fourth Generation Warfare (4GW) as conceptualized by numerous military scholars shares many characteristics of guerrilla tactics in the classical military literature of Sun Tzu, Wellington, Clausewitz, Mao, and Giap. Proponents of 4GW claim that its development has significantly altered the ratio of strength of industrialized and guerrilla forces, and thus the likelihood of weaker forces (as measured in previous military contexts) prevailing against forces assessed by traditional measures as stronger. Critics point to a lack of intellectual rigor in defining the salient characteristics of 4GW and charge that it is simply a re-statement of classical guerrilla war (CGW) tactics, albeit with improved communications and propaganda capabilities in a social media cultural context. This research models CGW and 4GW in conjunction with the irregular subset of 5GW in an agent-based simulation using NetLogo software (Wilensky, 1999) in order to explore differences in time and probability of victory and increased area of territory controlled by 4GW and irregular 5GW forces. These forces are then pitted against their respective industrial-age and information-age opponents. Emergent behaviors offer insights into the similarities and differences of CGW. The outputs are then compared to historical data to help answer the question of whether 4/5GW comprise a significant military revolution that threatens to upend traditional measures of military superiority, or they are merely an adaptation of old tactics to a new context. The results generally favored the rebels in both CGW and 4/5GW scenarios. Increasing Red Communications capability in the 4/5GW scenario overall increased Red Territory controlled as compared to the CGW scenario. However, increasing Blue Communications capability also increased Red Territory gained in both models. This could be interpreted that an overall increase in communications capabilities leads to more aggressive tactics and more engagements for both sides. Blue and Red communications in the 4/5GW scenarios are also associated with a decrease in both Red and Blue time to victory, indicating that the pace of engagements is accelerated in the 4/5GW scenarios. Finally, the model comparing identity of victor after 10 years produced mixed results. An increase in Red Communications was associated with a decrease in the log-odds of Blue Victory after 10 years in 4/5GW model, as expected. However, an increase Blue Communications also appeared to be associated with an increase in the log-odds of Red Victory in the 4/5GW model, a somewhat contradictory result. The addition of 21st century technologies seemed to change the overall dynamic compared to CGW only in specific cases, and usually only marginally. The research project was purposefully designed so that the 4/5GW capabilities would be additions to a basic model of guerrilla warfare. There is danger that these additions were simply insufficient in modeling the true extent of the differences between the two concepts of war, and that 4/5GW tactics are, in fact, revolutionary and not evolutionary. Further study is required to answer the question conclusively.