Infinity Journal Volume 2, Issue 2, Spring 2012 - page 29

Volume 2, Issue 2, Spring 2012
Infinity Journal
Page 27
not sacrificing the basic capability to call in a time on target
artillerymission.Yet we are supposed to believe that Hezbollah,
with a vastly smaller resource base, has somehow developed
comparable skill-sets in every poor sap they have scraped
off the street and run through their training program? That
must be some annex class they are running at Beirut Terrorist
Technical College.
Even more important, if we did face an enemy of such
impressive powers,then we would see that the logical solution
to such a problem leads in the exact opposite direction that
hybrid warfare proponents suggest. If one enemy soldier
or one enemy unit could really undertake all of the things
hybrid theory says they can do, then the clear solution is
not to try to match that skill set by becoming hybrid warriors
of our own. The solution would be to become proficient at
targeting and destroying those super soldiers or super units. If
all that capability is located in one person or one unit, kill the
person or unit, and one removes the awesome, multi-modal
capabilities from the field of battle.
Hoffman seems to recognize this truth, which is why he
writes that, “properly trained, conventional forces employing
combined arms usually win.” However, he wishes this away,
maintaining that conventional forces succeed with “far
greater losses than expected” using historical techniques
“that are anathema”in today’s casualty sensitive,population-
centric counterinsurgency environment.[xii] This assertion is
not backed by any evidence, and he does not elaborate,
which is a telling omission in an article on strategic thinking
about future threats. If well-trained conventional forces win
against hybrid threats, but there are some other factors that
complicate the winning, then we should at least entertain a
discussion of those other factors before we dismiss winning
tactics out of hand. That would be a strategic discussion.
Which leads to the next point: most of the hybrid warfare
literature is really about tactics, not strategy.
None of this is meant to underestimate potential enemies.
Rather, the idea is to provide an accurate understanding of
potential threats
as part of
an overall strategic picture. In that
sense, there are deeper problems with the hybrid warfare/
threats theory, which are revealed by an examination of its
underlying assumptions. Hoffman reveals the flaw himself in
his critique of how the U.S. Army has used the term “hybrid
threats” in its doctrine, which he notes, “emphasizes the
character of the forces (traditional combat forces, irregular
forces and criminal elements) working together for mutual
benefit. This definition emphasizes actors themselves, over
their modes of operation.”[xiii] Hoffman argues that the
modes are what really matter. But his focus on modalities of
warfare is really just a focus on tactics and techniques—a
mistake that would lead policy and strategy makers to focus
on tactics and techniques, and as we have already pointed
out, in unrealistic and ahistorical scenarios.
Hoffman’s overemphasis on the modes threats use begins
to resemble a strategy of tactics. Colonel Gian Gentile has
correctly observed that population-centric theorists took
tactics that were developed to be used specifically as part
of a strategy in Iraq in 2007-2008, and then argued that
those tactics should be used in any even remotely similar
circumstance. Since those tactics in Iraq served an explicit
mission of armed nation- building,their application elsewhere
would dictate that the mission was always armed nation
regardless of the different strategic circumstances
[xiv] The hybrid warfare emphasis on matching and
defeating modes is likewise tactically focused. Boiling war
down to mixed modality threats focuses strategy squarely on
tactics that potential enemies might employ. Leaving aside
the unlikelihood of any enemy actually being able to be a
hybrid threat in the way that Hoffman et al. described them,
defeating a potential enemy’s tactical capabilities is only one
part of strategic posturing. If the tactics employed to defeat
supposed enemy tactics run counter to or unnecessarily
complicate the purpose of the mission, then the tail is
wagging the dog.
The fundamental problem with the hybrid warfare analysis
is that it ignores the role of interaction in strategy. War “is not
the action of a living force upon a lifeless mass… but always
the collision of two living forces.”[xv] According to Clausewitz,
interaction in war leads to extremes and divergence, not the
convergence predicted by hybrid warfare. Interaction implies
that there can be no good strategy without considering the
reaction-counter-reaction dynamics of potential adversaries.
The problem with arguing that the U.S. should prioritize
resource allocation against hybrid threats because this
minimizes risk (measured by the product of probability
and magnitude of threat), is that the very act of resource
allocation alters the probability of the threat. Enemies of
the United States will always seek to attack our weaknesses
rather than our strengths. If we focus scarce resources on
countering hybrid threats, this immediately makes them less
likely.The implication is that conflicts at the extremes become
relatively more likely. Does the United States really want to be
steering its enemies towards major combat operations and
long, protracted insurgencies?
The weakness of the hybrid warfare model in addressing
the entirety of the strategic context is perfectly evident in
Hoffman’s assumptions and recommendations. As he writes,
“In a perfect world, our military forces would be robustly sized
and we would build distinctive forces for discernably (sic)
different missions along the entire conflict spectrum.”[xvi]
Yet Hoffman would have his perfect world: “Over the long
term, I would contend we must maintain the ability to wage
successful campaigns against both large conventionally-
armed states and their militaries and against widely dispersed
terrorists – and against
in between.”[xvii] Leaving
aside the fact that the resources are not there to achieve
such an ambitious agenda, apparently it needs pointing
out that this is an odd definition of a perfect world. We do
not imagine that war is going away anytime soon, but you
do not have to be a starry-eyed utopian to believe that
unconstrained military development is not particularly
healthy for the American political system. As one American
military thinker wrote over one hundred years ago “It is well
for us to be familiar with the organization of the German
forces, for example, and to understand their splendid system
The fundamental problem with the
hybrid warfare analysis is that it
ignores the role ofinteraction
in strategy.
Why Hybrid Warfare is Tactics Not Strategy
Dan G. Cox,Thomas Bruscino & Alex Ryan
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