Infinity Journal Volume 2, Issue 2, Spring 2012 - page 28

Volume 2, Issue 2, Spring 2012
Infinity Journal
Page 26
been joined by others, including Colin Gray, Max Boot, and
John McCuen[ii], who maintain in Hoffman’s words “that
future conflict will be
than a simple black or white characterization of one form of
warfare.”[iii] Margaret Bond extends this notion by arguing
that hybrid warfare is the paradigm for all future stability
operations.[iv] To clarify, Hoffman describes hybrid threats as
…a full range of different modes of warfare including
conventional capabilities, irregular tactics and
formations; terrorist acts including indiscriminate
violence and coercion, and criminal disorder. Hybrid
Wars can be conducted by both state and a variety
of non-state actors. These multi-modal activities can
be conducted by separate units - or even by the same
unit - but are generally operationally and tactically
directed and coordinated within the main battlespace
to achieve synergistic effects in the physical and
psychological dimensions of conflict.[v]
Critics have questioned the utility of such a definition, in
that it appears to be a repackaging of any number of older
concepts that described an enemy or scenarios that switch
between ways of fighting, including compound warfare,
three block war,[vi] or fourth generation warfare.[vii] For
example, the Vietnamese communists used conventional,
guerrilla, terrorist, and criminal activities in their war against
South Vietnam and the United States.
In reply, Hoffman and his compatriots have emphasized
that what makes hybrid threats different is that they will be
characterized by “more blurring and blending of war forms
in combinations of increasing frequency and lethality.”[viii]
In other words, these “multi-modal” or “multi-variant” hybrid
threats would individually be able to apply multiple modes
of war either all at once or at nearly the same time, and
at high rates of lethality. In this line of thinking, the Vietnam
example does not really apply because, supposedly, the
North Vietnamese Army handled most of the conventional
fighting, while the Vietcong acted as guerrillas. Therefore,
hybrid threats proponents see the wars in Chechnya over the
last two decades and the 2006 Israeli Lebanon campaign
as examples or harbingers of this emerging way of warfare.
(Hoffman also recently added the 2nd Anglo Boer War as
another example, which is hard to square with an emerging
We see two related problems with this line of thinking. The
first is that, despite some protestations to the contrary, hybrid
threats imagine an enemy of nearly mystical powers. The
second is that hybrid warfare is almost entirely tactically
focused in its analysis and prescriptions.
As should be clear already,the thinking about hybrid threats is
convoluted by its speculative nature. It imagines a threat that
can only loosely be identified with any concrete examples.
Hoffman argues, “[p]olicy makers and strategists need to
define their assumptions about frequency, consequences,
and risk far more carefully and analytically.”[x] Yet the hybrid
threat construct applies a flawed logic of induction to predict
future threats. In fact, the concept is induced and assumed
from an exceedingly narrow selection of historical wars,
many of which are oversimplified to fit the hybrid model. The
problem is that it is exceedingly difficult to find anyone, ever,
who could do all that the hybrid threats concept prescribes.
By arguing that individual units (or even separate but aligned
units) can somehow simultaneously (or easily and quickly)
switch back and forth between conventional, irregular,
and criminal activities elevates the enemy to mystical
status. One comes away with the image of a single hybrid
warrior simultaneously targeting and firing artillery, setting
an ambush with an IED, hiding among the population to
which he is selling drugs and setting up protection rackets,
developing and deploying biological and/or nuclear
weapons, and hacking into the Pentagon mainframe to
insert a computer virus, all while conducting an interview on
Al Jazeera specifically targeted to destroy morale among the
civilian population in the American heartland.
We exaggerate in this hypo-ethical, but only a little. In order
to execute all of their supposed tasks simultaneously or in
close sequence, any hybrid threat would have to be highly
proficient in a wide variety of modes of warfare, an idea that
strains the bounds of reality. When one views the problem
from the perspective of those groups or individuals who
might adopt the hybrid model, the fallacy of a hybrid warrior
becomes clear.The entire reason they fight in different ways is
because they cannot match the conventional and irregular
capabilities of the United States.[xi] They have to look for
different ways to defeat superior American capabilities
specifically because they do not have the wherewithal of
the United States. Because of cultural impediments and
highly restrictive materiel backing, they only have limited
capabilities and time for training. For that reason, their
efforts tend toward economy of force. They go for austerity,
not complexity. If they could prepare troops simultaneously
to engage in conventional, guerrilla, terrorist, and criminal
activities, they would not have to use suicide bombers. More
to the point, they would not dream of wasting such highly
trained troops on suicide missions.
Even at the height of American economic doldrums, the
American government invested almost as many resources
into the doctrine, training, education, equipping, and
development of our military as the rest of the world combined.
An oil tanker’s worth of ink has been spilled on the question
of how many instructional hours in professional military
education are enough to prepare lifelong professional
officers to be capable of doing counter-guerilla war, while
hybrid threats proponents see the
wars in Chechnya over the last
two decades and the 2006 Israeli
Lebanon campaign as examples or
harbingers of this emerging
way of warfare
Why Hybrid Warfare is Tactics Not Strategy
Dan G. Cox,Thomas Bruscino & Alex Ryan
from the perspective of those groups
or individuals who might adopt the
hybrid model, the fallacy of a hybrid
warrior becomes clear
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