The First Generation of Modern War runs roughly from 1648 to 1860. This was war of line and column tactics, where battles were formal and the battlefield was orderly. The relevance of the First Generation springs from the fact that the battlefield of order created a military culture of order. Most of the things that distinguish "military" from "civilian" - uniforms, saluting, careful gradations or rank – were products of the First Generation and are intended to reinforce the culture of order.
The problem is that, around the middle of the 19th century, the battlefield of order began to break down. Mass armies, soldiers who actually wanted to fight (an 18th century's soldier's main objective was to desert), rifled muskets, then breech loaders and machine guns, made the old line and column tactics first obsolete, then suicidal.
The problem ever since has been a growing contradiction between the military culture and the increasing disorderliness of the battlefield. The culture of order that was once consistent with the environment in which it operated has become more and more at odds with it.
Friday, January 8, 2016
A Culture of Order in a Disordered World
This is from an old piece by William Lind laying out his model of the four generations of modern warfare: