Small Wars Journal

Hybrid Threats And How to Counter Them

Tue, 09/20/2016 - 9:18am

Hybrid Threats And How to Counter Them by Ralph D Thiele, Institut für Strategie- Politik- Sicherheits- und Wirtschaftsberatun

There’s been a lot written lately about the “gray zone” nature of hybrid warfare (HW), but today Ralph Thiele takes a fresh tack. He explores the relationship between this comprehensive, multidimensional approach to conflict and two other concepts – Clausewitz’s centers of gravity and the notion of anti-access/area denial…

Hybrid concepts and strategies target vulnerabilities – from cyber-attacks on critical information systems, through the disruption of critical services, such as energy supplies or financial services, to undermining public trust in government institutions or social cohesion. To this end public opinion has become an attractive target.

Clearly, the cyber space constitutes the most extreme form of this vulnerability. Via the cyber space everything is connected to everything else: systems, machines, people. And everything can be damaged, disrupted or put out of service practically from anybody anywhere. Defenders don’t know when an attack is being launched, where it will strike and how. The resulting ambiguity makes an adequate reaction difficult, in particular for societies or multinational organizations that operate on the principle of consensus such as the European Union and NATO.

Hybrid warfare is of strategic nature. It is a potent, complex variation of warfare that simultaneously involves state and non-state actors, with the use of conventional and unconventional means of warfare that are not limited to the battlefield or to a particular physical territory. There are three characteristics

  • The decision of the war/conflict is searched for primarily at a non-military centres of gravity.
  • Traditional lines of order and responsibilities are being challenged through operations against specific vulnerabilities of the opponent in the shadow of interfaces.
  • Through combination of different concepts, methods and means „new” forms of warfare and fighting evolve.

Hybrid warfare employs a broad mix of instruments – military force, technology, crime, terrorism, economic and financial pressures, humanitarian and religious means, intelligence, sabotage, disinformation – across the whole spectrum of warfare – traditional, irregular and/or catastrophic. A stealthy approach and disruptive capacity can be expected, executed within the context of a flexible strategy with altering centres of gravity. Hybrid warfare is not limited to the physical battlefield. On the contrary, hybrid actors seize every opportunity to engage in whatever space is available. This includes traditional and modern media instruments. Non-state actor’s involvement includes militias, transnational criminal groups, or terrorist networks. While in the past, irregular tactics and protracted forms of conflict have mostly been marked as tactics of the weak, in future hybrid opponents may exploit them because of their effectiveness. Grey is the new colour of war...

Read on.