Small Wars Journal

The Islamic State is a Hybrid Threat: Why Does That Matter?

Tue, 12/02/2014 - 12:50am

The Islamic State is a Hybrid Threat:  Why Does That Matter?

Scott Jasper and Scott Moreland

The Islamic State (IS), also known as ISIS or ISIL, has garnered international condemnation for its brutal military and genocidal campaigns under ethnic and religious auspices. Their ‘shock and awe’ style in Syria and Iraq caught the region and the world by surprise. Since the summer, US warplanes have conducted nearly 870 strikes on militant targets in those countries.[i] However the resignation of the US Secretary of Defense is indicative of the difficulty in articulating strategies to defeat this extremist movement. The administration is looking for a chance to reset its foreign policy and approach to the war.[ii]  Understanding how the Islamic State fits the profile of a hybrid threat is integral to the development of unified strategies to counter them.

Hybrid Threat Characteristics

The Islamic State’s transnational aspirations, blended tactics, structured formations, and cruel use of terror as part of their arsenal can be described a hybrid threat. In September of this year, US President Barack Obama supported this terminology when he warned that the Islamic State represented a new type of challenge; a ‘sort of a hybrid of not just the terrorist network, but one with territorial ambitions, and some of the strategy and tactics of an army.’[iii] Although there is not a universal definition for a hybrid threat, NATO uses the term to describe ‘adversaries with the ability to simultaneously employ conventional and non-conventional means adaptively in pursuit of their objectives.’[iv]

The notion of a hybrid threat has been debated since it entered into the defense lexicon.  Detractors argue that it is simply the latest term for irregular or asymmetric methods used to counter a conventionally superior foe. Indeed, throughout history insurgents and even nation-states have deployed creative mixes of conventional and irregular capabilities to achieve their end states. Critics further maintain that the term hybrid threat is too abstract to be meaningful and risks becoming a catchall phrase for all non-linear threat actions.[v]  To further confuse the issue, similar terms are even applied to friendly formations. For example, the US Army’s Special Operations Command advocates for ‘hybrid organizations and structures, which combine the mission command for special operations and conventional forces.’[vi]

Supporters of a hybrid threat concept counter that contemporary threat actors are creating a new type of warfare through the employment of 21st century technologies and communications networks, unrestricted operational art, and novel combinations of conventional and non-conventional capabilities that are distinct from traditional irregular warfare methods.[vii] Frank G. Hoffman, a leading proponent for developing a concept for countering hybrid threats, was among the first to propose clear hybrid threat characteristics that might be meaningful and useful to planners:[viii]

  • Blended modalities. Hybrid threats use a combination of conventional and non-conventional tactics combined with terrorism and criminal activities.
  • Simultaneity. Hybrid adversaries can employ different modes of conflict simultaneously in a coherent way.
  • Fusion. Hybrid threats are comprised of a mix of professional soldiers, terrorists, guerrilla fighters, and criminal thugs.
  • Criminality. Hybrid threats use criminal activity to sustain operations and, in some cases, as a deliberate mode of conflict.

Like Hezbollah, al Shabab, and other like-minded contemporaries, the Islamic State exhibits the above characteristics, combined with technological sophistication and a facility for autonomous sustained operations. The hybrid threat concept precedes the Islamic State’s emergence by several years, but is not, as many pundits opine, as timeless as war itself. The definition of hybrid threats is implicitly related to the globally de-stabilizing effects of the post-Cold War era that created conditions for their development, coupled with the rapid appearance of disruptive technologies and mass communications media shortly thereafter that offered these nascent groups expansive propaganda networks and novel military tools.

The Middle East and its long history of entrenched ethnic and religious infighting, and muddled political boundaries provide especially fertile ground for the refinement of hybrid threat tactics. Hezbollah, the Lebanon-based Islamic political and militant entity, is perhaps the seminal example of a hybrid threat. Hezbollah emerged in the early 1980s in response to Israeli occupation of Lebanon. From modest beginnings as a paramilitary resistance movement, Hezbollah has evolved to become a sizeable and powerful organization with a large military wing. Hezbollah was among the first modern so-called ‘terrorist’ organizations to recognize the utility of blended tactics.  

During the second Lebanon war of 2006, Hezbollah’s distributed cells were often able to repel sophisticated Israeli Army forces by using a mixture of guerilla tactics and modern weaponry. Hezbollah’s use of AT-13/14 Anti-Tank Guided Missile Systems achieved modest success against Israel’s armored personnel-carriers and Merkava tanks, producing just enough casualties to sustain morale amongst the conventionally overmatched militants and frustrate Israeli advances.

These tactical efforts supported and prolonged Hezbollah’s strategic aim to coerce the Israeli government into a stalemate by terrorizing Israel’s civilian populations with sustained rocket barrages. In fact, Hezbollah achieved significant campaign-level victories from limited military success by recognizing Israel’s need to sustain international legitimacy and its limited threshold for civilian casualties.[ix] By contrast, neither of these considerations limited Hezbollah actions.

Hezbollah’s 2006 campaign benefitted greatly from state-sponsored training and provision of advanced weaponry. Access to medium range missiles and modern anti-tank weapons sharply upgraded Hezbollah’s ability to counter one of the world’s most capable armies.[x]  External sponsors and a well-established criminal fundraising network helped sustain Hezbollah’s operations. Counterfeiting, smuggling, and credit-card fraud are estimated to generate tens of millions in reliable profits annually as external sponsor funding fluctuates with oil revenues.[xi]

If Hezbollah provides the classic example of a hybrid threat, it is worthwhile to compare the activities of the Islamic State and perhaps expand the definition. Acknowledging previous efforts by a range of US and NATO defense analysts to create a working definition, the authors propose that hybrid threats simultaneously and adaptively employ a fused mix of conventional weapons, irregular tactics, weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, cyber attacks, and criminal behavior, supported by a malicious information campaign. The following six revised hybrid threat characteristics are offered to provide further clarity:

  • Blended Tactics. Hybrid threats combine conventional military capabilities with small unit guerrilla tactics, asymmetric attacks, and highly mobile standoff engagement systems.  
  • Flexible and adaptable structure. Hybrid threats are generally composed of paramilitary forces that can organize both in massed conventional formations and as small, distributed cells. Hybrid threats create a governance component to establish stability and sustain operations.
  • Terrorism. Hybrid threats utilize terror campaigns to proliferate hate and despair and to strike fear in adversaries. They target cultural icons and symbols to destroy the identities, heritages, and belief systems that oppose their ideologies.
  • Propaganda and information warfare. Hybrid threats exploit global communications networks to spread jihadist schemes, raise funds, and recruit.
  • Criminal activity. Hybrid threats use crime and fundraising as reliable sources of revenue to fight, train, recruit, govern, and sustain operations.
  • Disregard for International Law. Hybrid threats cynically view international laws as a constraint upon their adversaries that can be exploited. 

The following analysis of how the Islamic State fits these six characteristics yields sample suggestions for what offsetting strategies could be employed to defeat them. 

Blended Tactics

The Islamic State has the ability to form, deploy, and sustain conventional maneuver forces. They augment this major combat capability with cellular and disruptive tactics to fluidly adapt to changing battlefield conditions and minimize vulnerability to counter-offensives and air strikes. In its summer maneuvers, the IS demonstrated a coherent expansionist strategy as it deliberately isolated beleaguered Iraqi troops in Anbar province and converged on Baghdad from the north and west. The initial incursions into Iraq were characterized by robust conventional firepower and mobility that allowed the IS to rapidly seize and control strategically important urban centers, roads, and terrain.

When the IS advance was stalled by coalition air strikes later this summer, IS militants and equipment melted into urban landscapes, operated at night, and distributed their forces into smaller tactical units, while limiting unsecure cell phone and radio communications.[xii] They deployed mines and improvised explosive devices to deny mobility and frustrate counter-offensives by Iraqi and Kurdish forces in Tikrit and Jalawla.  Mines proved an especially effective means to passively control key areas because they are not vulnerable to airstrikes. Removal requires time-consuming and dangerous clearance techniques carried out by exposed ground troops.

The Islamic State has managed to acquire and use shoulder-fired ground to air missiles to discourage coalition airstrikes. Militants have already shot down at least one Iraqi Mi-35M attack helicopter. Even one lethal takedown a United States Apache might test the US-led coalition’s commitment to sustained air campaigns, especially if the IS were to beat rescuers to a crash site and re-create a ‘Blackhawk Down’ incident.[xiii] The IS is known to use unmanned drones for aerial reconnaissance and to commandeer captured weapons systems, including US Humvees, artillery, and small arms. They carry out sustained artillery attacks on opposition forces, ‘softening’ defensive positions before launching disciplined offensives. New evidence indicates that IS militants launched chemical attacks in their October offensive against the Iraqi town of Dhuluiya. Iraqi police claim that the IS detonated improvised explosive devices rigged with chlorine gas cylinders to produce chemical clouds that sickened about 25 soldiers and civilians.[xiv]

Echoing the concerns of military analysts, former US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel described IS ‘as sophisticated and well-funded as any group we have seen.’[xv] In order to overmatch the IS, it is important to understand how their military operations support their overarching strategy. The IS looks to establish a permanent presence akin to statehood, first in the Middle East, but expanding aggressively over time. To achieve this, it is not sufficient to seize territory and destroy adversaries. Their expansionist strategy compels the IS to impose strict governance to subdue opposition, preserve sufficient infrastructure (eg, roads, communications networks, and power generation) to maintain coherent operations, and secure and exploit revenue-generating resources and enterprises. 

The first step to stop IS growth and influence in the immediate term is already underway. The Iraqi Army and vetted militant forces like Kurdish Peshmerga must be augmented with foreign air power, military equipment and training, and emergency sustainment to halt the IS advance. The Iraqi Army has been able to push into Sunni-populated areas to relieve besieged forces.[xvi] Since IS fighters now possess advanced weaponry surrendered by the Iraqi Army, the US must similarly equip the Peshmerga with heavier firepower, including armored vehicles, anti-tank weapons, and artillery,[xvii] in addition to rifles, trucks and body armor.[xviii] Activities in the political, economic, and humanitarian sectors should aim to encourage regional cooperation, protect and assist besieged and vulnerable populations, and restrict movements of people and funds to and from IS-controlled areas.

Flexible and Adaptable Structure

The tactical successes of the Islamic State throughout the summer of 2014 can be attributed in part to their distressing ability to absorb and integrate fresh forces, funding, and captured equipment while on the march. Official intelligence estimates of militant numbers range from a core strength of roughly 10,000 that is steadily being augmented by forced enlistments, foreign fighters, and marginalized Iraqi Arab Sunni groups to potentially swell upwards of 50,000.[xix] Leaders of hybrid threat organizations like IS include not only charismatic ideologues, but also pragmatic military officers from deposed regimes or seconded from sympathetic nation-state armies. This combination of charisma and expertise provides the zeal for successful military engagements that appeal to their recruiting base of passionate and disaffected young men and women. 

The Islamic State has also established a sustainable operational space. As their military leaders seize territory, the IS simultaneously develops an effective martial governance structure that provides permanence to military operations. Former Iraqi military officers and Hussein-era government officials oversee departments of finance, local governance, public relations, and recruiting designed to consolidate gains and coordinate operations across large areas. By connecting and uniting regional strongholds from the city of Raqqa in northern Syria to key Iraqi cities such as Mosul and Tikrit, the Islamic State is effectively erasing current national boundaries and establishing a functional state.

By all accounts, the IS is a brutal organization whose extreme methods are distasteful even to al Qaeda. Iraqi Sunni insurgent groups, who made up much of the Islamic State’s reinforcements, are most likely to view their alignment with IS as a short-term coalition against a common enemy, namely the present Shia-dominated Iraqi government. The incorporation of local militia groups provides the Islamic State with formed military units that can operate and maintain captured Iraqi and Syrian Army equipment and fight as a disciplined and organized force. As the IS transitions from the offensive into consolidating territorial control, these militias, if sustained, comprise a defensive force dedicated to protect their homeland and backed by a sympathetic civilian populace.

Any strategy to counter IS must uproot their strongholds by isolating and destroying hardcore adherents while providing viable alternatives and a well-communicated plan for safe reconciliation to groups who have aligned with IS out of terror or despair. These are not military endeavors, but rather require representative and legitimate local governance, education, and clear and realistic options that offer hope, stability, and prosperity as a compelling counter-offer to the ruthless imposition of ideological control proffered by the Islamic State. Disenfranchised Sunni leaders have already indicated that they might be cajoled to reject the IS in favor of adequate representation and longer-term economic and security concerns.[xx] Investment in Iraqi agriculture would provide much needed jobs for the IS recruiting base of ‘mostly young men between the ages of 16 and 25 who are primarily poor, unemployed and lack an education.’[xxi]


Within their sphere of control, the Islamic State uses cruel acts of terrorism to subdue local populations and proliferate hate propaganda. Their brutal method of conquest is familiar in the taking of towns, where fighters destroy Shiite shrines, execute resisters, overrun security forces, and hoist the IS black flag above government buildings.[xxii] Foreign humanitarians and journalists are preferred targets for highly publicized beheadings intended to scare Westerners out of Iraq and Syria.[xxiii] Meanwhile Yazida and Chaldean Christian minorities are targeted in genocidal campaigns that include crucifixions, stonings, and public massacres inflicted against over 4000 victims.[xxiv]

Not content with mass killings, the IS also targets cultural icons and religious centers with an aim to eradicate entire societies. In July, they destroyed the tomb of the prophet Jonah, an important and beloved figure in Jewish, Christian, and Islamic religious traditions. In addition to demolishing churches, shrines, and mosques, historical treasures including priceless artifacts, statues, and archeological digs are purposefully destroyed with an aim to obliterate symbols that represent a sense of shared heritage.[xxv]

These wanton acts of violent and destructive evil should galvanize the world to unite against IS. As US Secretary of State John Kerry noted, these atrocities are “a purposeful final insult, and another example of [the IS’] implacable evil.” [xxvi]  International resolve must be equally purposeful. Forceful rhetoric must be backed with committed and sustained efforts to discredit the IS and expose the malevolence behind their vitriolic propaganda and audacious acts of terrorism. A zero-tolerance approach should aim at denying sanctuary and financing, while vigorously pursuing and prosecuting terrorist acts. A united ‘no negotiations’ policy may not be achievable, but any discussions with IS terrorists must be narrowly focused on de-escalation, disarmament and reconciliation.[xxvii] The only way to eradicate terrorism long-term is by forcing generational changes. Tens of thousands of displaced populations in Iraq and Syria have witnessed extreme violence, lost loved ones, and endured starvation and persecution for much of their lives.[xxviii] These populations must be persuaded that there are compelling reasons to break the cycle of hate and revenge and strive for peace. Military leaders must be cognizant of the longer-term effects of tactical actions, and provide secure space for humanitarian and developmental agencies to provide relief, education, and hope for exposed groups. This task, though daunting, is not impossible. The children of today’s terrorists need not be condemned to the same path due to despair, poverty, or desire for revenge.

Propaganda and Information Warfare

Organizations such as Hezbollah, Boko Haram, al Shabab, and the Islamic State utilize entrenched hatreds, audacious public ultimatums, and diplomatic double-speak to provoke regional and international tensions. They show an ironic ability to denounce Western ideals through the same media tools that are typically associated with the modern popular culture they profess to despise. IS has proven particularly adept at using social media including YouTube, Twitter, and blog posts for plotting, recruitment, fundraising, and marketing. Their propaganda campaigns provide near-real time footage of victorious militants hoisting their black flags and patrolling newly conquered towns as they subjugate vanquished foes through fear and humiliation.

The Islamic State makes powerful use of professionally developed propaganda films to illustrate their resolve and paint their fighters as heroes. They use nuanced messaging to market their professionalism and discipline. Glossy videos of militants firing machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades in relentless assaults on major cities are aimed to wither opposition and rally new recruits to the cause. Footage of well-trained IS fire teams in tactical formations gaining ground house-by-house with coordinated artillery support in Kobane cast doubts on the effectiveness of coalition air strikes and aim to weaken the resolve of Kurdish defenders.[xxix]

Islamic State propaganda has also generated support from farther abroad.  Foreign fighters, including North Americans and Europeans, are often radicalized through sophisticated web-based campaigns. Well-scripted video clips feature jihadists from as far abroad as Australia and Kosovo who profess allegiance to the IS and provoke global leaders with audacious threats. Meanwhile, teenage girls from Austria and even the United States are lured to support the cause as jihadist wives through aggressive social media campaigns.[xxx] The impact of foreign fighters comes not from their relatively small numbers, but the sense of global reach their recruitment implies. When a jihadist with a British accent beheads an innocent journalist or an American citizen-turned-insurgent is killed in Syria, it is hard not to recognize the Islamic State as an internationally relevant organization.[xxxi]

The international community has thus far approached the so-called ‘war of the narrative’ rather cautiously. While politicians condemn the raw brutality of IS actions, there has been a notable lack of a positive and sincere counter-message. Western onlookers have grown de-sensitized to images of violence against civilians in faraway lands. Moreover, distrust of Muslim communities in Europe and North America has risen sharply in the wake of recent extremist attacks. Even Canada, long-heralded as the Western bastion of peace and tolerance, now regards its own Muslim citizens with caution, with polls indicating that over half of Canadians feel that Muslims could be trusted “a little” or “not trusted at all.” These negative sentiments have arisen despite the National Council of Canadian Muslims’ staunch condemnation of the Islamic State and appeals for solidarity in “upholding and protecting the safety and security of our country.”[xxxii]

At the Wales Summit in September, NATO issued strong rhetoric expressing outrage at the Islamic State’s “barbaric attacks” against civilians and “deliberate targeting of entire religious and ethnic communities.”[xxxiii] Condemnation has not translated into unified action, however. The notable lack of coherent commitment to thwart the IS advance to NATOs southern flank in Turkey reveals sharp national divides among member states regarding the appropriate Alliance response. Yet the raw brutality of IS actions are beginning to work against them. The global community found its voice in the universal condemnation of the recent beheadings of Alan Henning, James Foley, and others. The plainspoken, yet gripping entreaties for mercy from the victims’ family members resounded across cultures and belief systems. It remains only for the global community that opposes the Islamic State to continue to expose their dark ideology and find, communicate, and deliver a positive and just alternative.

Criminal Activity

The Islamic State has become one of the world’s most wealthy terror groups by cultivating a self-sufficient shadow economy based on extortion, organized crime, and illicit oil sales. Cities under Islamic State control look more like fiefdoms than occupied zones. Minority groups pay tributes in an organized extortion system for the dubious privilege of residing or doing business in IS-administered areas.[xxxiv] The IS likewise controls the sale of commodities such as oil, wheat, and purloined artifacts within its territories. An assortment of shady businessmen conduct regular business trafficking in IS gray-market goods throughout the region. The IS produces an estimated 50,000 barrels a day from oil fields it controls although the effect of US led airstrikes is unclear.[xxxv]  Even at discounted black market rates of $20 to $30 a barrel, IS can clear over $1 million a day selling oil to its enemies.

Donations further bolster the IS shadow economy, although Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have initiated aggressive crackdowns on terrorist financing. The United States is attempting to influence national policies in Qatar and Kuwait that create ‘permissive environments’ for financing terrorists.[xxxvi] The Islamic State has generated over $20 million in ransoms this year. [xxxvii] Even though national laws in the US and UK explicitly prohibit payments to terrorist organizations, others, including NATO Allies Spain and France, have discreetly used ransom payments to negotiate the release of their people.[xxxviii]

Efforts must be re-doubled to strangle Islamic State cash flows. Coalition strategies should focus on limiting oil production, transit, and sales, while remaining cognizant of the impact on local civilians that are dependent on oil the Islamic State produces and provides to run their generators, heat homes, and sustain industry.[xxxix] Turkey is attempting to block the movement of illicit oil, but concedes that their long and porous border is ‘difficult to police.’[xl] Western countries in particular need to develop a hardline and consistent approach that recognizes that the horrific acts that have been inflicted on captured foreigners are supported every time hostage takers profit from hefty ransoms.  International law should address terrorist financing, including purchases of illicit commodities and ransom payments, as a potentially criminal offense.

Time will also take its toll on IS criminal activities and funds. Without adequate technical training or maintenance to sustain operations, outputs at IS-controlled oilfields should decline sharply. The costs of governing its conquered territories including public worker salaries and provision of services like sanitation, power, and water divert funds from military and terrorist activities. Payments to militants, mercenaries and bribes to local leaders are also required to sustain the IS war machine. As revenues shrink and military gains become less certain, the IS will find funding their ambitious agenda to be increasingly problematic. If public dissent grows from oppressive governance and a lack of basic services, the balance between administering occupied territories and conquering new ones will seem more and more like a zero sum game.

Disregard for International Law

The Islamic State shows a complete disregard for internationally accepted laws and universal humanitarian rights. Mass executions of minority groups have become distressingly commonplace. In one tragic example, after the Islamic State captured the city of Sinjar in northern Iraq, they massacred up to 500 Yazidi civilians and enslaved some 3000 Yazidi women.[xli]  Non-Muslim women and girls are brutalized under the IS-sanctioned practice of jihad-al nikah, or “sex in the name of the struggle.” They are raped, enslaved, and sold into forced pairings with militants. [xlii]

The IS brazenly advertises atrocities as a tactical deterrent. Even fellow Sunni Arabs are not exempt from intimidation. Public executions and discoveries of mass graves of over 200 members of the Sunni Albu Nimr tribe near the Iraqi city of Hit delivered a stark warning to other Sunni clans.[xliii]  The IS reputation for brutality has provoked such fear that numerically superior Iraqi forces fled confrontations without a fight, abandoning strategically important areas, functional military equipment, and vulnerable populations as war trophies for IS militants.[xliv] Once it seizes territory, the IS imposes order through violent oppression and terror. Their extreme interpretation of Sharia law includes stoning, amputations, and the complete sequestering of women.

The Islamic State’s disdain for international law and its criminal activities provide incentives for unified international action. Yet to date, Arab signatory nations to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights have remained surprisingly silent in the face of what amounts to a humanitarian catastrophe. Former US Ambassador and UN Assistant Secretary General Peter Galbraith has pointed out the global community’s obligation to intervene on behalf of threatened populations. In congressional testimony, Galbraith recommended countering IS inhumanity and criminality by officially and legally recognizing their campaigns against minority civilian populations as acts of genocide.

The broader Muslim community also has a role to play in exposing the criminality of the Islamic State’s actions. Islamic State extremists use loose interpretations of the Koran to justify cold-blooded massacre of innocents, criminal extortion, and torture in their bid to establish a transnational Islamic caliphate under a distorted rendition of Sharia law.  Muslim scholars from around the world have united in denouncing these “un-Islamic” acts in an open letter with detailed religious arguments aimed to discount IS claims to represent ‘true’ Muslims.[xlv] This is an important first step toward recognizing radicalism as reprehensible and criminal within the broader Islamic community.


The Islamic State is a formidable, but not unassailable hybrid threat. The danger the Islamic State poses to the international order warrants further examination of their objectives, capabilities, and vulnerabilities in a concerted framework.  Analysis of the six characteristics of the hybrid threat yields tacit suggestions to be explored, expanded and employed in a whole of government approach. Armed with a resolute international response, solutions to the rise of the Islamic State include regionally-led military counter-offensives, closure of borders, disruption of financing, prosecution of atrocities, protection of persecuted minorities and prevention of mass media exploitation for recruiting and training.  Actions range across strategic and tactical dimensions from seizing of financial assets to limiting the movement of extremists.

Generations of mutual mistrust, misguided hate, and exploitation are the genesis for popular support of groups like the Islamic State. A coherent campaign is required that not only destroys their military capability, but also their regional credibility, sources of funding, and ideological allure while offering legitimate and attainable alternatives for populations susceptible to radicalization. The hybrid threat known as the Islamic State will inevitably thrive if we collectively fail to reconcile legitimate grievances, provide reasonable opportunities to live and prosper, and encourage new models of government that guarantee basic human rights while respecting prevailing cultural norms.

End Notes

[i] Missy Ryan, “Hagel’s Successor To Face Tough Task in Iraq, Syria,” The Washington Post, November 26, 2014.

[ii] Julian E. Barnes, Carol E. Lee and Adam Entous, “Chuck Hagel Steps Down as Defense Secretary,” The Wall Street Journal, November 24, 2014.

[iii] Barack H.Obama, President of the United States. ‘President Obama:  What Makes Us America.’ 60 Minutes interview with Steve Croft at the White House.  Central Broadcasting Network (CBS).  Washington DC. 28 September 2014.  Retrieved from

[iv] NATO International Military Staff Memorandum (IMSM)-0292-2010, Hybrid threats description and context, 31 May 2010.

[v] David Sadowski and Jeff Becker. ‘Beyond the “Hybrid” Threat:  Asserting the Essential Unity of Warfare.’ Small Wars Journal. 2010.

[vi] US Army Special Operations Command Hybrid Structures White Paper.  26 September 2014: 5.

[vii] John R. Davis, Jr., ‘Defeating Future Hybrid Threats:  The Greatest Challenge to the Army Profession of 2020 and Beyond.’ Military Review. Fort Leavenworth: US Army Combined Arms Center. September-October 2013: 21-29.

[viii] Frank G Hoffman, ‘Hybrid vs. compound war.  The Janus choice:  Defining today’s multifaceted conflict.’  Armed Forces Journal.  1 October 2009.  Retrieved from

[ix] Stephen Biddle and Jeffrey A. Friedman. ‘The 2006 Lebanon Campaign and The Future of Warfare: Implications for Army and Defense Policy.’ Monograph, U.S. Army War College.  Carlisle Barracks, PA: Strategic Studies Institute, 2008: 5.

[x] Steven Erlanger and Richard a. Oppel, Jr.  ‘A Disciplined Hezbollah Surprises Israel with its Training, Tactics, and Weapons.’  The New York Times,  7 August 2006.

[xi] Matthew Levitt,‘Hezbollah:  Party of Fraud.’  Foreign Affairs, 27 July 2011.

[xii] Nour Malas, et al.  ‘US-led Airstrikes Disrupt Islamic State, But Extremists Hold Territory.’  The Wall Street Journal, 5 October 2014.

[xiii] Kirk Semple and Eric Schmitt.  ‘Missiles of ISIS May Pose Peril for Aircrews.’  The New York Times, 26 October 2014.

[xiv] Tamer El-Ghobashy and Ghassan Adnan.  ‘Iraqi Officials Say Islamic Militants Used Chlorine Gas North of Baghdad.’  The Wall Street Journal,  24 October 2014.

[xv] Kate Brannen, ‘Hagel:  ISIS is more dangerous than al Qaeda.’ Foreign Policy, 21 August 2014.

[xvi] Jeremy Binnie, “US focused on Iraq, not Kobane, says CENTCOM,” Jane’s Defence Weekly, 29 October 2014: 5.

[xvii] Peter W. Galbraith, ‘Genocide in Northern Iraq.’  Testimony before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs; Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations; Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa.  Washington DC:  10 September 2014.

[xviii] Gopal Ratnam, “U.S. Ramps Up Military Aid for Islamic State Fight,” Foreign Affairs,  November 21, 2014.

[xix] Brian Fishman, ‘The Islamic State:  A Persistent Threat.’  Prepared testimony to the House Armed Services Committee. 29 July 2014.  Retrieved from

[xx] Raheem Salman and Yara Bayoumy, ‘In rare alliance, Shi’ites join Sunnis to defend Iraqi towns.’ Reuters, 3 October 2014.

[xxi] Lucy Fisher, ‘Why is there Sunni Arab support for ISIS in Iraq?’ New Statesman, 15 August 2014.

[xxii] Tim Arango, ‘Sunni Extremists in Iraq Seize 3 Towns from Kurds and Threaten Major Dam,’ The New York Times, August 3, 2014.

[xxiii] Rukmini Callimachi, “Obama Calls Islamic State’s Killing of Peter Kassig Pure Evil,” The New York Times, November 16, 2014.

[xxiv] UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.  ‘Human Rights Council opens Special Session on the Human Rights situation in Iraq.’ Unofficial summary of proceedings posted for the information media. 1 September 2014.  Retrieved from

[xxv] Nour Malas, ‘Jihadists in Iraq Erase Cultural Heritage,’ Wall Street Journal, 25 July 2014.

[xxvi] Josh Niland, ‘John Kerry Blasts ISIS’s Cultural Destruction in MET Speech.’ Artnet Worldwide Corporation, 23 September 2014.

[xxvii] Peter R.Neuman,‘Negotiating with Terrorists,’ Foreign Affairs, 86, no. 1.  (January-February 2007).

[xxviii] International Organization for Migration (IOM), ‘Iraq Crisis Response: Weekly Situation Report #1,’ 23 August 2014.

[xxix] Sam Greenhill and Steph Cockroft, ‘Inside the battle for Kobane:  ISIS fanatics release propaganda film of street fighting as Kurds stage last desperate stand to stop massacre of the innocents in sight of the Turkish border,’  The Daily Mail,  11 October 2014.

[xxx] Homa Khaleedi,‘The British women married to jihad,’ The Guardian,  6 September 2014.

[xxxi] Jen Psaki, et al, ‘Why do foreign fighters join the Islamic State?’  Interview with Gwen Ifill on PBS Newshour.  27 August 2014.  Retrieved from

[xxxii] Jillian Kestler-D’Amours, ‘Muslim Canadians decry attacks amid backlash.’  Al Jazeera, 26 October 2014.

[xxxiii] North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) North Atlantic Council, Wales Summit Declaration, Wales: 5 September 2014: paragraph 33.

[xxxiv] Nour Malas and Maria Abi-Habib, ‘Islamic State Economy Runs on Extortion, Oil, Piracy in Syria, Iraq,’ Wall Street Journal, 28 August 2014.

[xxxv] Sam Dagher, “Control of Syrian Oil Fuels War Between Kurds and Islamic State,”  Wall Street Journal, 24 November 2014.

[xxxvi] Lori P Boghardt, ‘Qatar and ISIS Funding:  The US Approach.’  The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.  August 2014.  Retrieved from

[xxxvii] Russell Berman, ‘The World’s Wealthiest Terrorists,’ The Atlantic, 23 October 2014.

[xxxviii] Armin Rosen,  ‘ISIS Has Been Taking Foreign Hostages Since the Very Beginning—and Getting Paid for Them,’ Business Insider, 20 August 2014.

[xxxix] Charles Lister, ‘Cutting off ISIS’ Cash Flow.’ Brookings Institute,  24 October 2014.  Retrieved from

[xl] Keith Johnson, ‘The Islamic State is the Newest Petrostate,’ Foreign Policy, 28 July 2014.

[xli] Rasheed, Ahmed. ‘Exclusive:  Iraq says Islamic State killed 500 Yazidis, buried some victims alive,’ Reuters, 10 August 2014.

[xlii] Haleh Esfandiari, et al, ‘Barbarians:  ISIS’ Mortal Threat to Women,’  Viewpoints  60.  Washington DC: Wilson Center Middle East program, August 2014:  4-6.

[xliii] Odal Sadik, et al, ‘Public executions and mass graves:  ISIS targets Sunni tribe in Iraq,’  CNN World,  2 November 2014.

[xliv] Julia Harte and R. Jeffrey Smith, ‘Where Does the Islamic State Get Its Weapons?’  Foreign Policy, 6 October 2014.

[xlv] Philipp Holtmann, ‘The IS-Caliphate:  What Should be Done to Prevent it from Spinning out of Control?’ Perspectives on Terrorism 8, no. 5 (October 2014).


About the Author(s)

Scott Moreland is the program manager for multinational exercises in the Center for Civil-Military Relations at the Naval Postgraduate School, where he plans and facilitates bilateral, regional, and multinational security cooperation exercises across the globe.  In addition, he lectures on multidimensional peace and stability operations, interagency disaster response, and countering hybrid threats. He has published chapters in four edited volumes and contributed to several security sector journals.  His current areas of research include security in the global commons and hybrid warfare.

Scott Jasper, CAPT, USN (ret) is on the Faculty of the National Security Affairs Department at the Naval Postgraduate School and teaches in the Center for Civil-Military Relations. He designs and delivers resident and mobile courses on Defense Capability Development and Cyber Security.  He is the editor of Conflict and Cooperation in the Global Commons, Securing Freedom in the Global Commons, and Transforming Defense Capabilities: New Approaches for International Security.  He is a PhD candidate at the University of Reading in the United Kingdom.


Outlaw 09

Tue, 12/09/2014 - 12:58pm

We can discuss hybrid all day, the US reaction to IS all day, and the lack of US actions towards Russia all day--but at the bottom of all this-- we the US still do not have a strategy for anything whether it is the IS, whether it is the Russians and especially the Iranians.

Silence does not make a strategy.

This article if in fact correct goes a long way in explaining just why there has been absolutely no US strategy for Russia and how reality that should be factored into current events is not just because it "rocks the boat".

Foreign Policy from today:


U.S. Accuses Iran of Secretly Breaching U.N. Nuclear Sanctions

Washington has evidence that Tehran is trying to buy new equipment for a key nuclear facility. But the White House isn't willing to say anything publicly about it.

The American allegations, which have never before been reported, come more than a year after the Iranian government pledged as part of an interim agreement with the United States and other big powers to scale back Iran’s most controversial nuclear-related activities, including the enrichment of high-grade uranium, in exchange for billions of dollars in sanctions relief. They stand in stark contrast to recent remarks by Secretary of State John Kerry, who has repeatedly credited Tehran with abiding by the terms of the November 2013 pact, which bound Tehran to suspend some of its work at Arak. “Iran has held up its end of the bargain,” Kerry said last month in Vienna as he announced a seven-month extension of the timetable for big-power talks.

Outlaw 09

Sun, 12/07/2014 - 3:05pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

The new Russian nuclear doctrine was first released in 2010 and is in the process of being revised in light of their Crimea and Ukrainian experiences and the responses of the US/NATO and the EU.

What you are seeing now is Russia not so subtly signaling the West that it can and will use nuclear weapons ie all the airborne nuclear bomber flights, the complete testing of their entire nuclear arsenal, and the testing firing from subs one of their newest nuclear ICBMs and the development of a long range nuclear armed cruise missile in violation of the INF.

Remember the US nuclear weapons are aged and degrading and are in need of a massive upgrading and we have developed and fielded not a single new system since the Cold War days of the Pershings vs Russia which has totally upgraded and developed new systems.

They are making it plain to the US--you have to guess what we are going to do and we realize you the US will not risk war at any cost thus we keep on moving in the Ukraine. This signals in no uncertain way--MAD is no longer on the table for Putin and MAD has been the great equalizer. Notice in the next to last para---"the first use plank" is not deleted from their doctrine.

That is why these recent Russian nuclear moves are serious.

Has the IS come anywhere close to this?

Taken from their 2010 document:

Like the previous Doctrine, the new 2010 document differentiates between four types of military conflicts:

•armed conflict (basically, a small-scale clash between two states or within one state similar to the war in Chechnya);

•local war (war with limited goals that affects only the interests of the immediate participants — a good example is the 2008 Russian-Georgian war);

•regional war (war that involves significant forces, including naval and airspace, which affects a large region and perhaps even coalitions of states); and

•large-scale war (war with radical, far-reaching goals that involves all or most great powers; fundamentally, a new world war).

The 2000 Military Doctrine assigned nuclear weapons to the third and the fourth types of conflicts, which represented a major expansion of the role of these weapons (the earlier, 1993 Doctrine only assigned them to global war). Obviously, Patrushev's hint that nuclear weapons might have a role in local conflict was met with concern — one needs only to imagine nuclear threats issued by Moscow during conflicts similar to the 2008 war in the Caucasus.

The final version of the 2010 Military Doctrine kept the earlier language, however. Nuclear weapons are still assigned to regional and large-scale wars and are regarded as "an important factor in the prevention of nuclear conflicts and military conflicts that use conventional assets (large-scale and regional wars)." Like the earlier version, the new document clearly indicates that a conventional regional war could escalate to the nuclear level. In a slight change from 2000, this provision is formulated in broader terms — this is now not only seen as a means of deterring or dissuading states that might attack Russia with conventional armed forces, but also an expression of concern that similar escalation might take place elsewhere.

Like the earlier document, the new Doctrine reserves the right to use nuclear weapons not only in response to a nuclear attack or an attack with other WMD (a slight revision of the negative assurances that has become common among nuclear weapons states since 2000), but also in response to a conventional attack. In other words, it keeps the first-use plank.

The main mission assigned to nuclear weapons by the new Doctrine is the "prevention of nuclear military conflict or any other military conflict." This mission assumes "the maintenance of strategic stability and the nuclear deterrence capability at the level of sufficiency." In a different part of the document the notion of "sufficiency" is defined as ability to inflict "predetermined" (alternative translation, "tailored") damage to an aggressor under any circumstances.

Outlaw 09

Sun, 12/07/2014 - 2:29pm

In reply to by Bill M.

Bill---the question and it is a serious one is---has Russian now negated the old principle of MAD?--Even better does anyone in the current administration even know the term MAD?.

There are strong indicators ie newly designed and deployed nuclear weapon systems when the US systems are aging badly, a new Russian nuclear use doctrine indicating first strike tactical usage, newly deployed tactical cruise missile system nuclear capable and the basing of tactical nuclear missile launchers in the Crimea.

Yes we can project anything anyway in the world -but we did that already in Son Tay, Beirut in the 80s and Jordan in Sept 70- but Son Tay was the only time when we projected SF into the face of overwhelming conventional forces with a heavy AD and AF abilities and pulled it off. Once the Russian military had set into place all their field elements we will not be able to get a drone into eastern Ukraine much less SF unless they plan on walking in and with no air support.

I have written here many times--and it is coming to that point and I believe we are there now---what does Putin do with his launched UW strategy when the economy is crashing around him--or what I call the spiral dance of death--economy or geopolitical success?

IMO it is the geopolitical decision he is after regardless of the cost as he has now prepped his country for the coming hard times.

We NATO and the US are not prepared at all for war at the conventional levels--it took how long for the 1st Cav to ship over---this is not the Reforger days where everything was prepositioned.

The Baltics can not hold out as they can barely field per country one armored division and simply do not have the manpower to hold longer than two days--this was actually mentioned by Putin in one of his interviews where he pointed out he could be in Kyiv in two weeks, the Baltics in two days and that was no subtle nod.

The Russian army is settling into eastern Ukraine, has established a very effective AD inside the Ukraine and positioned both the S300/400s to effectively provided massively effective AD coverage over all the Baltics and Baltic Sea. they have full SIGINT and EMP capabilities inside the Ukraine and will be forcing the Ukraine Arm into a frozen defense line which has already occurred.

Have they taken relatively heavy loses yes but it is still not deterring Putin--it is the geopolitical end goal he has.

We have in fact already lost the information war and that is the core key just as IS uses it for their recruitment and funding streams. NATO has now 20 people---Russia has hundreds and most of it for free or low pay.


NATO is trying to counter russian information warfare, but is still in infancy, only 20 staff in public diplomacy.

What threat to our national interests is greater, IS or Russia?

Both present significant threats to our interests if they are not contained, but overall IS presents the greatest threat. If Russia was willing to wage traditional and unconventional (meaning nuclear in this case) war with the West, then the assessment would change. Russia is implementing a strategy that avoids war, and while their strategy was effective for assuming control over Crimea conducting operations short of traditional war, it is also a strategy that is limited to Russia's neighboring countries. Neighboring countries that clearly understand Russia's strategy and are preparing, if not prepared to counter it. Furthermore, Russia's economy serves as a traditional center of gravity that is vulnerable to coercion. They are already facing recession, and the low oil prices plus sanctions will further put pressure on them. Good strategy considers cost versus gain, and their little adventure in Ukraine is costing quite a bit.

IS on the other hand does not have a vulnerable center of gravity, and it is having a global impact through its actions and IO campaign. They have stated the intent to attack the West, and clearly have the means to do so. Russia is being dealt with, and our Army doesn't need to replicate their approach in Ukraine to counter it. In fact, minus leveraging criminal organizations like the Night Wolves that Putin used to help facilitate his adventure, our SOF operate at a much higher level and have much more combat experience and if directed could easily surpass what we witnessed in the Ukraine. In traditional battle, our conventional forces would trounce the Russian military. We trump Russia at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels. They woke us up to their intentions, now they're paying the price. European nations vulnerable to a similar approach are preparing to deal with it. There was no need for the U.S. to intervene directly in the Ukraine, and over time I suspect Russia's adventure will prove to be detrimental than beneficial. IS on the other hand presents a real threat to U.S. interests that must be addressed with a higher level of urgency. As the authors state IS is a formidable, but not unassailable threat. I'm not convinced their proposals for assailing it are sufficient, but they may be the only options we have at the moment. Also, unlike the Russians as demonstrated by the recent SOF raid in Yemen, we can project power globally, not just on our borders, and not just with bombers and submarines doing drive bys as demonstrations of useless power (unless they really want to go to war) to remind us they're still there.

Hiring contractors to conduct combat operations is not catching up with the Russians, we have been doing that for decades. Most notably using MPRI and others in the Balkans, others in Africa, and the well known use of contractors in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Outlaw 09

Sun, 12/07/2014 - 1:02pm

One element of the Russian "hybrid" is the creation and use of private contracting companies for combat operations--so the question begs to be asked--how much of the Russian "hybrid" has been "copied" from the US over the years?

Looks like the US is rapidly moving in that direction as well.

U.S. Firm Taps Ex Operators to Fight ISIS EXCLUSIVE:

A North Carolina-based company is quietly enlisting veteran Special Forces operators--at up to $1,750 per day--to conduct military operations in Iraq.

President Obama has pledged not to send U.S. ground troops into combat against Islamic militants in Iraq, but at least one private security company is recruiting ex-Green Berets to do just that.

The North Carolina-based company, Raidon Tactics Inc., has “immediate” openings for veteran Special Forces officers and enlisted personnel to conduct combat missions in Iraq, according to emails distributed to retired Special Forces members in recent days.

The recruits would deploy as independent contractors to Iraq in February or March for six to eight months and receive pay of $1,250 to $1,750 per day.

The job solicitation is unusual because it clearly describes the work as combat – a further indication that private companies are seeking opportunities in Iraq in the absence of a U.S. military fighting force. One industry advocate, Erik Prince, founder of the former private security firm Blackwater, has argued in recent months that private contractors could take the lead in defeating the Islamic radicals operating in Iraq and Syria who call themselves the “Islamic State.”

Over the past decade, private security contractors have taken on an expanded – and controversial – role in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts.

Overall, contractors have accounted for half or more of the total military force, working in areas ranging from transportation and logistics to intelligence support and private security, according to a Congressional Research Service report. The number of U.S. war zone contractors in Iraq peaked in 2008 at nearly 40,000, a contingent roughly a quarter the size of the U.S. military force at the time, the report showed.

Outlaw 09

Sun, 12/07/2014 - 12:43pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

One of the MVD documents that was translated indicates the following and that is in fact interesting as it is opposite from what Putin and his FM keep repeating.

Since it is in fact a true Russian document taken from behind a firewall it will be interesting to see how Russia reacts---probably claim they are all "fakes".

From MVD leak: Russian soldiers wounded in Ukraine on August 8 'in performance of official duties' during a fight with Ukrainian Nat. Guard

Outlaw 09

Sun, 12/07/2014 - 10:49am

"Hybrid warfare" is though a two way street---cyber hacking goes both ways.

For those that read and speak Russian---over 1.7GB of hacked Russian Ministry of the Interior files just "popped up" on the web.

1.7GB of data from #Russia Interior Ministry hacked and fully available.

Another example of the "advantage" of hybrid is the ability of the aggressor to test under combat field conditions all new weapons systems---a great additional plus in the world of superpower competition and then feed those results back into the eight phase doctrine.

Notice this new EMP Russian system that has been evidently spotted either close to and or in the Ukraine.

#Russia brags have entered the finale stage of EMP station "Алабуга" capable knocking out electronics in 3,5km radius

AND more "hybrid examples":
If West reacts to their provocation, RUS wins. If West does not, they also win. No down side from RUS perspective

Reportedly four strategic nuclear weapon bombers of type Tu-95 right now over the Baltic Sea.

Latitude 67N SIGINT @uascan
RUAF activity on finnish bay

Latitude 67N SIGINT @uascan
RUAF VHF channel used by TU22 also active

Apparently Russian AF has flown Tu-95MS 'Bear's over the Baltic Sea two days in a row, today together with Tu-22M3. This is a message.

The Tu-95 are followed by several Tu-22 (littlesister). The event is probably a premiere for the Baltic airspace ht

NATO Baltic Air Policing QRA F-16 jets on 7 DEC scrambled to intercept RU Armed Forces 4x Tu-95; 2x Tu-22 over the Baltic Sea.

Finnish F18s were also placed into QRF.

Watching comments to new RuAF strategic bomber flights over the #Baltic sea. Consider twice what type of reaction Russi4 is hoping for.

Outlaw 09

Sun, 12/07/2014 - 11:33am

In reply to by Sparapet

Sparapet--completely correct in your comments--and the comment on the intel should be understanding this totally correct AND yet have you seen or heard anything out of them since the MH17 shot down or even before the "little green men" in the Crimea?

Actually there has been nothing out of them.

Nothing on intel provided on the shot down even with NATO and US ISR assets literally over the shot down area--open source analysis has been far more effective that the entire US IC.

Nothing on the voice intercept side outside of the Ukrainian SBU releases, nothing on the use of massively new Russian heavy weapons inside the Ukraine (open source has been far more effective at this), nothing on the massive use of Russian SF/GRU having been on the Maidan during the killings there, nothing on the Russian firing of heavy artillery and BM21/27s from Russia into the Ukraine, nothing on actual movement of Russian tanks and artillery into the Ukraine easy if using GMTI via ISR, and this is the important piece no confirmation of the numbers of Russian troops KIA/WIA/MIAs.

Begs the question---just where has the US IC been? Better yet where has the US info war been as well?

The Ukrainians and Russian Mothers have been in fact releasing the causality figures.

Then this today from Kerry--why does he not include the actual figures or his trying to provide Putin a way of "saving face":

Kerry: Russia "winds up paying steep price of 100's Russian soldiers who fight & die in a country where they had & have no right to be."


Sun, 12/07/2014 - 10:59am

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Let me offer a couple of other ways to look at the Russian case in particular.

The hybrid/conventional-unconventional paradigm is in the stratosphere of theory; although ironically it comes off as just a description of tactics. Is tactic a,b, and c present? great, hybrid. Is it only a and b? great, not hybrid. For assessing Russian actions we could use the more classic idea of doctrine. For example, in the past, the Soviets had the "Deep Battle" doctrine, which imagined decisive operations to create gaps in enemy lines allowing for deep exploitation. The equipment they built and tactics they developed were in line with this doctrine. Their internal politics never allowed them to test the doctrine effectively, but it was there nonetheless. Deep battle was a combined arms doctrine for defeating an enemy force. The Soviets also had a doctrine for establishing Communist political control of territories. This involved the establishment of local councils (soviets), property rights revisions, organization of local militias that answered to the party, etc.

Those are doctrines that informed the practitioners, much like AirLand informed us. So what is the Russian doctrine in Ukraine? Is there even a coherent doctrine? Or are they making it up on the fly with what they have available, and our bias to imagining rational evil enemies makes us believe they are far more deliberate than they are. And are they just marginally successful because of the power differential between Russia and Ukraine in eastern Ukraine rather than because it's such a clever doctrine? Perhaps they are testing a new doctrine that successfully blends CW and UW (unlike our highly technocratic AirLand and AirSea, both of which categorically ignore UW)? Incidentally, that's the sort of stuff the military Intel Community is supposed to be answering.

Outlaw 09

Sun, 12/07/2014 - 3:26pm

In reply to by Bill M.

Bill--reference the Russian AN in Nigeria--the pilots were French.

Unconfirmed from #Nigeria: 20 persons in detained Russian #Antonov - 18 Russian special forces spetsnaz, and 2 French.

Outlaw 09

Sun, 12/07/2014 - 9:30am

In reply to by Bill M.

Bill---two answers---currently Russian power and decision making rests on the stool principle---a stool with four legs and it does nothing without internal understandings among themselves and with Putin acting more or less as a moderator among the "clans".

1. oligarchs
2. state security
3. military
4. Russia mob

And covering the stool like a blanket is the Russian Orthodox Church---have a nice picture of a ROC priest "blessing" the main servers of the Russian Central Bank to "help" the Ruble and if that is not telling.

To envision the FSB and the SRV not "knowing" about arms shipments coming out of Russia is like saying there is no ice in the North Pole. Why --even the Russian Mob at least checks in with them and the FSB has them so undermined with informants they realize they must check in in order to continue in their line of work. I would even argue that the shipment could have in fact been a SRV shipment being carried out by the Russian Mob as that allows for state denialability.

I would also argue that in fact what we see currently in at least the Russian version of "hybrid" is not in fact new---nothing in their eight phases has and or is a surprise ---would go further and say we have seen some form of each element in their eight phases ever since 1918.

I would argue though and what is a new surprise is the total "whole of government approach" that we ourselves talk to death and yet do nothing about--Russia has it, uses it, and it comes easily due to the stool design of their decision making process.

Trying to get "a whole of government approach" in our currently disfunctioning democracy is like "herding cats" which I have a nice video on.

Although one could argue that the stool is now tipping more and more in favor of the state security and military and less on the Mob and the oligarchs as the power circle of elites around Putin are now basically former KGB or active FSB as he is moving more and more towards an authoritarian ruling mechanism with a single decision maker.

If you have paid attention to who the Russian government ie Putin is dispensing CB funds due to the sanctions to support his "damaged" oligarchs and some of that will be siphoned off to the Mob he is definitely keeping the decision making process balanced and at the same time ensuring their allegiance to him.

That is in my estimate the main reason the current Army training concept called DATE is now "out of date" as it can never fully come close to replicating even the Ukrainian events with all the twists and turns as well as the heavy informational warfare piece.

Bill M.

Sun, 12/07/2014 - 9:04am

In reply to by Outlaw 09


While I do agree hybrid warfare is not new, it is still significant and important. We need to understand that war is war, but the character of warfare changes based on technology, politics, social, and economic changes. Certain things are possible now that were not possible in the past (in regards to technology, political systems, and economic systems), such as cyber and the ability of states and non-states to leverage increasing powerful organized criminal organizations to pursue politic ends. The majority of resistance fighters we trained during the WWII and the Cold War turned into criminal organizations over time if they didn't achieve control of the state, so the nexus isn't new, but the scale of it is. If it is true that transnational criminal organizations have captured 10-15% of the global GDP and is growing seven times quicker than the licit global GDP that represents a significant power shift that is well beyond the capacity of law enforcement to manage. The issue isn't necessarily new, it is the scale, and the lack of policies to effectively deal with it. Those that continue to beat the drum that nothing is new in some respects undermine our national security, because intended or not, it implies that new policies are not required. We can just continue with our RMA and dominant in battles and still lose strategically because we failed to addressed the real threat.

As for the Russian plane in Nigeria, I'll bet it isn't tied to Russia. Many Western and African nations contract Russian "made" aircraft normally piloted by former Ukrainian air force pilots for humanitarian and illicit activity to include the U.S.. The plane was enroute to Chad, so highly doubt the contents were intended for Boko Haram. I wouldn't be surprised if the Russian Mafia was involved and that they had state cover, but need to give this time to play out.

Outlaw 09

Sun, 12/07/2014 - 9:47am

In reply to by Outlaw 09

A perfect example below of an apparent American writing a proRussian article which is heavily anti American and NATO published in what appears to be a solid US publication in order to give more credence to the article---just one of hundreds of informational warfare activities being conducted by Americans.

Then watch how that single article gets passed around/quoted in the global media (Russian sponsored and paid for) so it appears to have massive acceptance even in the US--that is information warfare ie "influence".

That is exactly just how black info goes first to grey and in the end is viewed as being 200% white truth.

Notice we are aggressive against IS supporters using media, but what about Putin supporters---is there really any difference?

We call it the right of expression and democracy, but is it if it is tied into informational warfare being conducted by and for a foreign power or a non state actor?…

We tend as a whole to fluff off such articles but what about the audience he is targeting?

Outlaw 09

Sun, 12/07/2014 - 7:19am

In reply to by Outlaw 09

While I disagreed with some of the authors analysis of the development of IS and the Sunni/Shia divide I found this in the article is actually quiet close to something that can in fact be used when looking at say the Russian UW style of "hybrid warfare" in support to their political warfare directed against another nation state.

The authors indicate that they went to analysis work done by NATO and others. I think after their built their indicators they should have gone back to the original source of the "hybrid doctrine" in this case the new Russian military doctrine called "New Generation Warfare" which was analyzed in English by Latvia or even better back to the actually Russian language documents from late 2012 early 2013 as the original source documents often lend linguistic differences that are subtle and not so subtle.

After rereading this weekend the Russian documents and looking at the Lativan article the authors do in fact have a good working breakout of the Russian doctrinal concept they call "New Generation Warfare" and in fact if we take Bill M's and some of Roberts comments that it is not so new and there are commonalities to be found throughout the years the authors achieved an interesting result in their work---something that can be used as an overlay template for all forms of "hybrid warfare" regardless where it is being seen.

Why is that necessary---it allows analysts to "see" and "understand" events as far apart as say 10,000 miles and "see" the interrelationship to other ongoing UW/"hybrid" events being carried out by multiple state and non state actors.

If in fact civilian senior leaders also understood these points and were "seeing" them in action then in fact they might be able to improve their overall ability to develop a counter strategy or even create a strategic strategy that can be modified for each "hybrid event". Right now that is not happening at any level of civilian leadership.

The Russian doctrine envisions eight phases and if one reads closely the eight phases are so intertwined that they can stop in the middle of one phase and shift gears to another phase all depending on the reactions of the targeted nation state---exactly in some aspects as IS is currently doing in Syria and Iraq only on a non state level.

Here are the authors six indicators--they used the term "jihadi" to reflect the IS side but one could equally substitute Russia or any other "hybrid" player and the model works--BUT and there is a large BUT the authors missed the critical role of "influence and messaging" which goes to the heart of "hybrid warfare" and takes the largest amount of efforts by the aggressor as it is the "influence" that the tactical side is attempting to establish for the strategic strategy side.

the authors propose that hybrid threats simultaneously and adaptively employ a fused mix of conventional weapons, irregular tactics, weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, cyber attacks, and criminal behavior, supported by a malicious information campaign. The following six revised hybrid threat characteristics are offered to provide further clarity:
• Blended Tactics. Hybrid threats combine conventional military capabilities with small unit guerrilla tactics, asymmetric attacks, and highly mobile standoff engagement systems.
• Flexible and adaptable structure. Hybrid threats are generally composed of paramilitary forces that can organize both in massed conventional formations and as small, distributed cells. Hybrid threats create a governance component to establish stability and sustain operations.
• Terrorism. Hybrid threats utilize terror campaigns to proliferate hate and despair and to strike fear in adversaries. They target cultural icons and symbols to destroy the identities, heritages, and belief systems that oppose their ideologies.
• Propaganda and information warfare. Hybrid threats exploit global communications networks to spread jihadist schemes, raise funds, and recruit.
• Criminal activity. Hybrid threats use crime and fundraising as reliable sources of revenue to fight, train, recruit, govern, and sustain operations.
• Disregard for International Law. Hybrid threats cynically view international laws as a constraint upon their adversaries that can be exploited.

Here are the Russian eight phases for comparison contained in the Lativian Nation Defense article:

The phases of new-generation war can be schematized as (Tchekinov & Bogdanov, 2013, pp. 15-22):
First Phase: non-military asymmetric warfare (encompassing information, moral, psychological,ideological, diplomatic, and economic measures as part of a plan to establish a favorable political, economic, and military setup).
Second Phase: special operations to mislead political and military leaders by coordinated measures carried out by diplomatic channels, media, and top government and military agencies by leaking false data, orders, directives, and instructions.
Third Phase: intimidation, deceiving, and bribing government and military officers, with the objective of making them abandon their service duties.
Fourth Phase: destabilizing propaganda to increase discontent among the population, boosted by the arrival of Russian bands of militants, escalating subversion.
Fifth Phase: establishment of no-fly zones over the country to be attacked, imposition of blockades, and extensive use of private military companies in close cooperation with armed opposition units.
Sixth Phase: commencement of military action, immediately preceded by large-scale reconnaissance and subversive missions. All types, forms, methods, and forces, including special operations forces, space, radio, radio engineering, electronic, diplomatic, and secret service
intelligence, and industrial espionage.
Seventh Phase: combination of targeted information operation, electronic warfare operation,aerospace operation, continuous airforce harassment, combined with the use of highprecision weapons launched from various platforms (long-range artillery, and weapons based on new physical principles, including microwaves, radiation, non-lethal biological weapons).
Eighth Phase: roll over the remaining points of resistance and destroy surviving enemy units by special operations conducted by reconnaissance units to spot which enemy units have survived and transmit their coordinates to the attacker's missile and artillery units; fire
barrages to annihilate the defender's resisting army units by effective advanced weapons; airdrop operations to surround points of resistance; and territory mopping-up operations by ground troops.

In other words, the Russians have placed the idea of influence at the very center of their operational planning and used all possible levers to achieve this: skillful internal communications; deception operations; psychological operations and well-constructed external communications.

The current Russian influence operations ie information warfare is massively funded, global in nature, carried out by hundreds of low and or non paid fellow traveler supporters using all forms of media especially social media, coordinated from a single center Moscow and here is the key hourly. This includes also large funding's to politicians and their political parties as a form of "influence" in their respective countries and this also includes the US where some "influencers" have been identified.

That is not reflected in the authors six point list and needs to be.

Why?--this is the perfect example:
#Russia's propaganda spending up⬆︎41%

@RT_com gets $725m & @SputnikInt $75m, in 2015

That is for a single year and what is actually spent by the US if anything?

Russia views "influence" as a "war" to be fought/won with all means and we the US?

Heck even the IS has a more effective "influence game plan" and executes it digitally far better--they actually outperform even some of the better US companies in Silicon Valley---than the US currently has in the entire ME and yet we claim to be the "founders" of the digital world.

And yet we wonder why so many are streaming into the ME to support the
IS---just as is with Russia IS plays "to win"--there is no second place for both.

Outlaw 09

Sun, 12/07/2014 - 5:53am

Now that we agree "hybrid warfare" is actually nothing new and is just new in the word packaging--we need to expand outwards to see elements of it at play in support of the Russian political warfare being supported via "hybrid warfare" ie UW.

It is the elements that make this "new Russian concept" so intriguing in it's use and will cause the US major heartburn going forward as we simply do not think along the lines of "UW" at the senior political levels nor is it easy to distinguish those elements if separated by say 3000 miles.

A really interesting use of something in support to the Russian endeavors that is totally disconnected from the Crimea and or eastern Ukraine regions, but is being conducted in support of the country conducting the UW strategy---I have always said UW has three components---military, economic, and informational.

Simply put the Russian UW strategy is both strategic and yet tactical and it has a scalability range we have never in the past looked at allowing for unlimited flexibility--therein lies the "beauty of the concept".

Our strategy "designers" are not even in the game.

This example is one of economics:

Nigeria detains Russian cargo plane with military shipment…

Russia fuels Boko Haram attacks on Nigeria to surge oil?

A very valid question is being raised.

Geoffrey Demarest

Thu, 12/04/2014 - 4:25pm

I really liked your article. It was well organized and made a lot of sense to me -- right up until the last sentence, which maybe perhaps might smack of a moral equivalency trap. The sentence to which I refer states, “The hybrid threat known as the Islamic State will inevitably thrive if we collectively fail to reconcile legitimate grievances, provide reasonable opportunities to live and prosper, and encourage new models of government that guarantee basic human rights while respecting prevailing cultural norms.” I’m not saying this assertion is wrong, only that it was too much of an inkblot. That is to say, I could not resolve whether my inference regarding what you wrote was near what you were trying to imply, or if you were just trying to dance off the article by writing a conclusion from which I could reconfirm my own prejudices. So…what did you want to imply with, “encourage new models of government that guarantee basic human rights”? Are you suggesting, for instance, that Moslem societies not treat women as chattel? If this is a reasonable inference regarding an element of what you intended, how does that part of your advice reconcile with “respecting cultural norms” where said slavery is the cultural norm? Am I wrong to suppose that the Islamic State recruits and thrives because it reconfirms and proselytizes cultural norms that we simply cannot abide? What then? What is the “legitimate grievance” to which you allude? Were you wanting to intimate, for instance, that perhaps we should retreat from the notion that the State of Israel has a right to exist in peace, and that its neighbors explicitly recognize that right? When you wrote “provide reasonable opportunities to live and prosper,” who did you have in mind? Were you suggesting we give somebody something; that we owe someone something?
What if (in our confrontation with this hybrid threat) it turned out that the most relevant and burdensome cultural norm was widespread submission to violent hate-mongering leadership? What if, instead of preaching respect for all cultures, we were to assert more clearly that some aspects of cultures are just unacceptable to us, period, and that our disdain can justifiably reach to aspects of religion and to the status of clergies? If we said THAT more often then maybe we could more easily talk about how to make the right changes. Yes? No? OK, I’m compelled to return to the rest of the article -- great stuff. One measly sentence too long, I think.

It is long past time that we understood and addressed the central problem:

We cannot -- due to how we perceive our national interest (the transformation and incorporation of other states and societies) -- offer the populations of the Middle East what they want (to wit: the freedom to organize, order, orient their ways of life and ways of governance as they might choose).

This being the case, then we cannot, as we might otherwise desire to do, wish away these conflicts; this, anymore than we could wish away our other conflicts of this nature (examples: the American Civil War, the American Indian Wars, the Cold War).

In each of the examples provided above, it was (1) the distinctly different ways of life and ways of governance of these (2) distinctly different populations that (3) stood in the way of greater security and prosperity -- and greater power, influence and control -- for the United States.

Same-same re: the Middle East today.

As each of the examples above indicate (American Civil War, American Indian Wars and the Cold War), the United States will work -- using various means employed in many different ways -- to achieve its desired ends.

The U.S. will not, however, abandon or change its desired ends (the transformation of outlying states and societies more along modern western political, economic and social lines). This, because the United States, as yet, does not see a better way to pursue and achieve its national interests.

So re: the Middle East:

a. There will be (as in the case of the American Civil War, the American Indian Wars and the Cold War) conflict.

b. Both sides (as the examples provided above indicate) will employ different and innovative ways and means to achieve their desired ends.

Thus, today's contests to be understood, and addressed, within the enduring context, and the very nature, of the conflicts I have described above.

Herein, to determine whether a "hybrid" threat -- then or now -- mattered/matters?

Bill M.

Sat, 12/06/2014 - 10:06am

In reply to by Outlaw 09

I agree words should have meaning, but I challenge you to find a definition of war that most people agree with. It is like trying to explain beauty. I know it when I see it. We can say war is organized social violence to achieve political ends. The definition of political ends is debated, does it include forms of government, areas of control, access to resources, stealing another's country's or another group's gold? Can it be waged by a non-state actor? In my current opinion the answer is yes to all the above. It gets more complicated when if we define war as an act of force to impose our will on another. Are economic sanctions war, or something short of war? If war is imposing will, is a cyber attack to disrupt Iran's nuclear program war? Neither are organized social violence, but both are forms of force to achieve political objectives. Cartels use organized social violence to impose their will, even if they don't desire to displace the state, instead they seek to control it sufficiently to facilitate their criminal activity. If two countries destroy each other's satellites is that an act of organized social violence? Are these acts war? Using the example of Russia's activities in Ukraine, a combination of subversion, military support for insurgents, and active military action to achieve limited aims war? Are does it fall below the line in the space in between? This has been argued forever with no resolution. The Clausewitz purists have their definition of war, but does it address the reality we are dealing with today? Sometimes (even mostly)it certainly does, and in the other cases where it is hard to make the link, even with creative interpretation of CvC's concepts, and in the areas that are not war, but still important to national security how do we categorize them? How we categorize them will shape our policies on how we respond, so it is not intended as a rhetorical question.

Warfare according to joint doctrine is the "how of waging war," and it is viewed as to major forms traditional (state versus state) and irregular (people versus the state) and combinations thereof. Traditional warfare according to doctrine is characterized as a violent struggle for domination between nation-states or coalitions and alliances of nation-states. With the increasingly rare case of formally declared war, traditional warfare typically involves force-on-force military operations in which adversaries employ a variety of conventional forces and special operations forces (SOF) against each other in all physical domains as well
as the information environment (which includes cyberspace).

This view of traditional warfare seems somewhat limited, and there appears to be a gap between traditional and irregular warfare that is not addressed in the current definition. Beyond that, the problem is the prevailing American way of war based on seeking decisive decision in battle against the center of gravity. A concept that had merit during Clausewitz's time, but increasing COGs do not exist, or they cannot be decisively attacked. This misperception leads us to confuse our focus on RMA and the ability to project force as the ways to achieve our strategic ends, instead of partial means. In short we confuse means with ways. I suggest this partly due to our perception of war being principally traditional, traditional that doesn't include irregular or other forms of non-traditional warfare. Those that suggest calling it hybrid warfare are trying to create a needed paradigm shift to view war has it always has been, not as we want it to be.

If hybrid is wrong, why is wrong? I agree it is not new, but if it is old, then that would imply it is right, and if it serves as a reminder that warfare can take many forms simultaneously (as it always has), then it serves as a useful discussion point. I also suspect or military-industrial complex doesn't like this view, because traditional views on warfare are certainly better for many of our larger defense industries, but that is another topic.

Outlaw 09

Fri, 12/05/2014 - 7:17am

In reply to by Bill M.

Bill--would largely agree but and there is always a but---words do have meaning and reflect actions.

Example--I spent literally hours in two training cycles with the Russian staff officers (2012/13)of their 15th peacekeeping brigade and their military academy much like our West Point trying to nail down the definitions and usage of specific words.

The current Putin world is literally again throwing back into the face of the US/EU/NATO words and statements of the past 20 years so for some international players---words take on a life/meaning of their own.

The SAMS officers I have bumped into in the last five years where well trained, solid thinkers but hemmed in by the military command culture ie micromanagement, powerpoint and a lack of trust. We are nowhere close to that--in fact what gains that were made in say 2013 have all been lost due to the officer RIFs.

One of the best commenters here on Design and who wrote several great articles on Design for SWJ has not posted a single comment here since before his deployment with the 2ACR to AFG in 2013.

His former BN Cmdr had a simple believe---everyone should fear the BN staff officers and he basically if he wanted to survive to the next rank shut up in the realm of Design even to now. That BN Cmdr went on to command a BCT by the way.

One of his best comments was "you do not feed a bear marshmallows with your lips" and "if you poke a bear in the chest he will "kill" you meaning your career.

Design is a great concept but unless the command culture "allows Design to exist in a fear free open dialogue built on trust" even it will fail

Right now the internal and external debate on the terms irregular, unconventional, and guerrilla warfare has so muddied the waters no one seems to know what to use when. When one is working the commonalities approach the words used does take on meaning.

It is not only the military that uses words so does the Dept of State and our politicians and they interchange them all the time causing even more confusion.

Words also play a heavy roll in information warfare ---example below where 411 house members voted against Russian aggression and those that voted no are being held up as "paid Putin spokespeople" in the global info war.

Russia's willing supporters in the US Congress.

Whatever we come up with and or use will be definitely part and parcel in any information warfare so to me the selection of keys words is extremely important.

Bill M.

Fri, 12/05/2014 - 6:43am

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Quick response so pardon the grammar and rough thoughts, but I think I can still get my main concern across.

I don't claim to have the answer, but fortunately I have always been a bit of an iconoclast, so I'm not wedded to the dogma that our doctrine often creates. The problem we have is not new words, it is our inability to adequately meet our current national security challenges. The world is complex and that means something, to ignore that is to set ourselves up for failure. This is one reason the military is attempting to adopt design thinking. Design thinking involves skepticism and discourse, not blindly following doctrine or using doctrinal terms that don't fit what we're seeing in the world today. That means being skeptical of new terms, so the debate is healthy, but when the opposing side only claims we don't need new terms without explaining why the discourse falls short.

If simple terms or concepts like hybrid warfare, the four block war, etc. open the minds of planners who have been programmed over the years to identify simplistic centers of gravity based on an adversary's capital or his fielded forces (the Republican Guard) and assume that is all the military needs to do, then we're in a dangerous rut. Too often I heard the mantra of "we did our job," which is little more than an excuse to adapt to the rest of job that must be done. For example, the State Department is not going to stabilize a war zone. I don't think SAMS graduates actually think in such a narrow sphere, but our current planning models tend to drag all of us into that narrow sphere in my opinion. Again the new terms and buzz phrases are not the problem, they are a symptom of the problem. H

This also creates a paradox of sorts. Complexity is reality, reality is complexity, and attempts to dumb it down at the strategic and operational level will likely lead to strategic failure in wars without clear objectives (wars where we build the plane while we're flying it). We all grow up in the tactical world, and most of us never want to leave it, but when we do we owe those at the tactical level more than they're getting now. The golden rule at the tactical level is to keep it simple stupid (KISS). That rule is still essential at the tactical level, it has been proven throughout history to be a principle of good tactical plans. Simple plans drown out the chaos, and provide clear objectives for the operators to focus on amongst the chaos of combat. Their intellectual capacity is fully committed to winning the fight, not dwelling on second and third order effects.

Complexity must still be appreciated at the strategic and operational level, but purged out of orders by the time it reaches the tactical level for combat operations. There is more to it than identifying a center of gravity that we should direct the bulk of our effort against, which normally is an illusion we created versus reality. That type of thinking is an attempt to dismiss complexity and force KISS at the strategic and operational levels. KISS normally (never say always) does not apply at that level. This article does a good job of attempting to understand the problem, not dumbing it down to one thing we must focus all our energy on.

We have a lot of incredibly smart people in the ranks who are taught mental processes that dismiss the reality of the world. The proof is the results of most of our missions since the Korean War. At the tactical level we haven't been beat yet, at the operational and strategic levels we owe our country more than we're giving it at this time. New words and buzz phrases are a symptom of a larger problem, the words are not the problem.

Outlaw 09

Fri, 12/05/2014 - 1:29am

In reply to by Bill M.

Bill---can it simply be that our educational processes and doctrine dictates that whatever "it is" must sound "complex"? Therefore we make "it" complex? Think about it we sent many good officers to SAMS to create an elite thinkers group---maybe they were inherently taught in the wrong direction?

I personally think that the realization if it finally gets through the entire senior military leadership and the national civilian leadership is that there is always elements of commonality that exist much as Robert states and we all know it does exist and that these commonalities are what we need to define as part and parcel of the "problem set".

Then step back and look at the drivers inside the population and between the population and their governance then start the "thinking" process.

Out of all the buzz words it narrows down to two that have been with us since history began---irregular and or unconventional---maybe the problem lies within the English language where one can have a wide variance on the definition of a single word.

If we take the flip words regular and or conventional we are back to normal again---the biggest problem is that the entire set of branches to include the WH and our own media cannot get settled on a definitive word with a definitive meaning and there is not an inherent process to allow for modification of the word if history shows us something truly "new" and unseen before.

The English language is one of the greatest languages at being able to express something that can mean 15 different things all based on personal biases and view points.

Example--let's take the concept of the words "treaties and or agreements" and what it means to us but it can mean another thing to others all using the same words in the same language---we have allowed the English language in some ways to tie us into crazy donuts.

Take todays historical event and then back off and reread all of the articles around the event--you can get three different ideas of the agreement and which one carries the "weight" in the history books as being the most accurate usage of the word?

On Dec 5,1994 the leaders of Ukraine,Russia,Britain and the United States signed Budapest M. on Security Assurances.

Bill M.

Thu, 12/04/2014 - 7:07pm

In reply to by Sparapet

I'm open to other suggestions to fix our overly simplistic views of war that don't involve calling it hybrid. What are they? I'm not even sure how we got to this point after 200 plus years of experience with so called hybrid warfare. I'm not sure why our capstone joint doctrine fails to adequately the character of war in a meaningful way. I'm not sure why our senior civilian and military leaders were confused when we faced irregular threats in Iraq after their conventional forces were defeated. What I am sure of is that our current education and doctrine is falling short.

Outlaw 09

Thu, 12/04/2014 - 3:05pm

In reply to by Sparapet

Sparapet---agree with the comments---in some aspects the use of the word hybrid is interesting in that it cropped up with the Russia and Ukraine clashes and not before.

What we need it a way to simplify the explanation of the new Russian UW

Why---it has been defined and refined since 2008 and it is being exercised and modified as we speak in the eastern Ukraine coupled with the active use of new weapons systems and technology--it is practically an ongoing live fire exercise complete with dead bodies.

Now back to both Bill and Robert--they are both correct what the Russians are doing is nothing really new what is new is that they are practicing what they preach and have tried it to the term political warfare something we do not often talk about here at SWJ.

Secondly while both are correct in that most of what is now ongoing is not so new we need to understand there are similarities between the Russian form of UW and what I would call an IS form of UW and if we really look even FRAC is running their own version of UW.

Where it gets complicated is the massive use of the buzz words---UW, CUW,irregular warfare, guerrilla warfare, etc and no common standardized and accepted term across all branches.

Robert is super correct in that it all boils down to the specific population that is involved and their relationship to their own government--if one is able to openly look at the drivers and understand those drivers one is closer to maneuvering towards a solution and many times in the coming years we the US just might not like the outcomes thus we must learn to allow populations to spread their wings and go their own ways.

In some ways what we are seeing whether it is the IS or even Putin--there is an ongoing whiplash against globalization by populations that are being effected by it.


Thu, 12/04/2014 - 2:22pm

In reply to by Bill M.

Bill -

Doesn't the "perceptional lens" approach risk institutionalizing a fallacy? I agree that as a critique of how we currently speak about warfare, hybrid warfare is a change of perspective. But at the same time I see that usefulness limited to its role as a critique. Yes, our institutions view warfare in ludicrously simplistic terms. And yes, a term such as "hybrid warfare" exposes that simplicity. But it doesn't actually explain anything in a new or compelling or innovative way, especially once you realize that the critique isn't the ideas that make up hybrid warfare, it's the damn phrase itself. Once the light goes off that "BUT OF COURSE ALL WARS ARE REGULAR/IRREGULAR/CONVENTIONAL/UNCONVENTIONAL/SIMPLE/COMPLEX/HYBRID/PUREBRED IN SOME PROPORTION ALL THE TIME", hybrid warfare as an idea has served its purpose and no longer needs any elaboration.

I suppose I take issue with the effort to take hybrid warfare seriously on its own terms. I hold the view akin to Robert and Outlaw that this is nothing new, and not only that, it was always present and always the case, even in our own doctrine. Imagine a man has been fetishizing his shirts so long that he forgot he also wears pants. Then he stepped outside one day and someone reminded him that he only checked his shirt on the way out and forgot to put his pants on. Imagine then the lunacy of him then claiming that pants was a new fashion that he had to adapt to and then asking everyone to applaud his original idea of pants.

I might be showing some frustration with war theorizing here... :)

Bill M.

Wed, 12/03/2014 - 9:15am

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Outlaw and Bob,

I agree that hybrid warfare is not new, little is in reality. The problem is the U.S. military's narrow view of war, the senseless adherence to the center of gravity concept that starts the planning process with reductionism to the extreme, and then describing warfare as two separate and distinct forms (traditional and irregular). To capture what Frank Hoffman and others call Hybrid Warfare, doctrine states that warfare is defined by its predominant form, so foolishly it is either traditional or irregular.

I am not sure anyone is seriously arguing that hybrid warfare is a new phenomenon, but as a perceptional lens to view warfare and hopefully shatter the over simplified view of warfare in our doctrine so it conforms to our over simplistic mission analysis and planning processes. From that aspect I find it useful. We can harp all day that we have definitions for this and that, but obviously they are not resonating, so clinging to the old serves no useful purpose if the terms are no longer working with the audience of concern. Besides explaining the challenge in a narrative is more effective than using doctrine, and I think hybrid provides a framework for a narrative that is more useful than using two separate forms of warfare (traditional, irregular, unconventional, etc.).

There are some things that are new, the domains of cyber and space. The impact of globalization, which in many cases prevents victory through the often sought decisive battle. It also creates new vulnerabilities to U.S. interests that need to be addressed. The excessive focus on existential threats misses the reality of threats to our economic system by displacing the international system we depend upon. The only existential threat from a military perspective remains Russia's nuclear arsenal. However, threats to our way of life, significant to threats to our economy, exist in multiple forms. These threats will over time undermine our national power, and if we're happy with becoming a second class player on the world stage and being poorer overall then we can dismiss them and accept that. If we desire to remain a world power out of pride and because we fear the consequences of other actors assuming a dominant position, then we probably need to relook at how we look at competition and warfare.

Outlaw 09

Wed, 12/03/2014 - 7:53am

In reply to by Outlaw 09

And then throw a little guerrilla warfare in when the military fronts stiffen and do not move and then the decision makers have no idea what strategy to select as that then complicates the entire problem.

There has been a marked increase in bomb attacks inside the rest of the Ukraine in the last two weeks.

Diversion group, that was collecting info for attacks on Mariupol detained. Terrorists were trained at RF base

Outlaw 09

Wed, 12/03/2014 - 6:17am

In reply to by Robert C. Jones

Robert--you beat my response and are 300% correct--every war is a "hybrid one" why because whoever starts it does so from a set given and the opposition has to come up with a counter game plan--that is history.

So there is a Ukrainian Russian version, an IS version a FRAC version and of course as always an Iraqi version and on and on.

They all have three things though in common--a military piece, an economic piece and a information piece.

The core problem with us is we cannot seem to come up with a strategy because it somehow needs to be jazzy, snappy, and new because "the problem is new" so a buzz word is created ----thus more think tank inputs, more debates, more delays, and in the end confusion reigns.

Couple this decision making process with "soft power neo isolationism" and then one has a total mess which is what we have in the ME and the Ukraine and one has to wonder if Putin can even figure us out in order to make his decisions?

Robert C. Jones

Tue, 12/02/2014 - 1:01pm

In reply to by Robert C. Jones

Ok, that may have been a little bitchy, and was not intended to be an attack on the authors. They offer the best lay out of hybrid warfare that I have read. I just don't buy into the spin and had come out of a meeting on the topic just prior to reading their piece, so I vented a bit.

Yes, our opponents will employ hybrid approaches and seek asymmetric opportunities. That is what smart opponents do. We need to stop acting like a victim and try to get smart as well.

Robert C. Jones

Tue, 12/02/2014 - 12:55pm

Strategy by meaningless cliche' and rhetoric has become the norm in all corners of Washington DC (and most everywhere else).

Whether we are "winning hearts and minds" through "clear-hold-build" and "building partner capacity" to "separate the insurgent from the populace;" or describing a frightful new and sneaky form of warfare that is "hybrid, surrogate and proxy warfare" - the result is the same. Strategic clusterf#@$.

I struggle to find an example of warfare - current, modern or historic - that is not "hybrid" in some fusion of regular, irregular, conventional, unconventional, etc approaches. This is not new, it is simply the newest evolution of the same old thing.

When we write about hybrid warfare I suspect we sound much like General Gates did in letters back to his superiors about how the Colonists in America were not fighting properly and thereby gaining an unfair advantage over his own forces that were far superior in training, equipment and numbers. Deal with it.

War, warfare, and competition will not be what we want it to be, it will be what it is. Before we send our defense establishment into a mindless spiral of developing force structure to better match with some opponents tactics, it is good to remember that he can change tactics faster than we can change structure. Better we focus more on the problems found in the growing friction of Ways and Means of US foreign policy as they come in contact with a rapidly evolving world - and equally take some time to ensure that we have not overly expanded our Ends as well.

Our Ends need tightened up and to become less ideological in nature. We then need to adjust our Ways and Means for the world as it actually exists. After 12 years of the military trying to conform to specific tactical situations in Iraq and Afghanistan we find ourselves failing in those places AND also losing our deterrent affect on state actors such as Russia and China.

Take a knee, drink water, catch our breath. Old things do not need new names, we just need to refocus and get back to being the America that most of the world expects us to be but in the world as it exists today. The America we are becoming is not helping anyone, least of all ourselves.

Just as the United States and most Western States are as well...