Small Wars Journal

Countering Gray-Zone Hybrid Threats: An MWI Report

Tue, 10/18/2016 - 9:24am

Countering Gray-Zone Hybrid Threats: An MWI Report by John Chambers, Modern War Institute

The gray zone is an operating environment in which aggressors use ambiguity and leverage non-attribution to achieve strategic objectives while limiting counter-actions by other nation states. Inside the gray zone, aggressors use hybrid tactics to achieve their strategic objectives. While hybrid threats have historically been associated with irregular and conventional warfare, their use in the gray zone leads to a dichotomy between two types of hybrid threats that can mainly be attributed to the need for ambiguity and non-attribution in the gray zone. The two types of hybrid threats are "open-warfare hybrid threats" and "gray-zone hybrid threats." A case in point is Russia's military actions in eastern Ukraine, part of what the Kremlin calls its "New Generation Warfare." In this MWI report, Capt. John Chambers draws on this case study to recommend ways the US Army can improve its capacity to counter ongoing as well as future gray-zone hybrid threats.

Read full report here.


In the Old Cold War of yesterday, the U.S./the West used such things as "hybrid warfare, in the then-"gray zone" between war and peace, in support of our "containment" and "roll back" strategies of that time. (Thus, so as to counter the Soviet/communist "expansionist" efforts and designs back then.)

In the New/Reverse Cold War of today, the Russians, the Chinese and the Iranians appear to be using these exact same methods, in this exact same environment, in support of, now, their (similar to our old) "containment" and "roll back" strategies. (In this case, however, as per current/contemporary U.S./Western "expansionist" efforts and designs.)

Thus, for the "expansionist" Soviets/communists back then, and likewise for the "expansionist" U.S./West today, the challenge/the requirement was/is to find effective ways to counter these such gray zone, hybrid warfare, "containment and/or roll back-oriented" threats -- to one's "expansionist" activities and designs.


In such a clear-cut role-reversal as this -- and given that the Russians, the Chinese, the Iranians, etc., today, have (a) so blatantly and effectively stolen from our Old Cold War "containment"/"roll back"/"gray zone"/"hybrid warfare" playbook and (b) so blatantly and effectively used same against us,

Given this such reversed/Bizarro World strategic environment, should not U.S./the West, likewise, be:

a. Looking first to the Soviets'/the communists' Old Cold War "expansionist"/"gray zone"/counter-"hybrid warfare" playbook; this, to

b. See if we can likewise find -- and likewise use and/or improve upon -- likewise tried and proven ways/means/methods of

c. Overcoming/countering one's "containment"/"roll back"-oriented opponents' "gray zone"/"hybrid warfare" plans, procedures and activities?

Bottom Line Thought:

If the Russians, the Chinese, the Iranians -- and re: their "containment" and "roll back" requirements of today -- found that they did not, necessarily, need to completely "reinvent the entire wheel;" this, re: their need for effective "containment"/"roll back"-oriented methods and designs (instead, just need to improve upon/update them for today),

Then might the U.S./the West as well -- and re: our current "expansionist" requirements and designs -- likewise follow (or at least consider) this exact same logic? (To wit: that we, also, and re: our "expansionist" requirements of today, may not need to completely "re-invent the wheel.")

Herein, and thus, looking first to see what the Soviets/the communists successfully developed, deployed and used against the U.S./the West in the Old Cold War of yesterday -- to effectively counter, for example, our "containment" and "roll back"-oriented hybrid warfare activities -- in the gray zone strategic environment of that day?