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Moving Beyond a Capabilities-Based Understanding of Hybrid Threat

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Technical Report,26 Jun 2017,24 May 2018

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US Army School for Advanced Military Studies Fort Leavenworth United States

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Use of the term hybrid threat to describe potential future adversaries has become increasingly more common in the lexicon of the US military over the last decade. The concept of hybrid threat is complex and allows actors in a conflict to employ a wide array of means beyond just conventional military forces. It includes not only the combination of conventional forces and unconventional, or irregular, forces and tactics, but leverages other non-military factors to achieve strategic ends. The US military, however, views the concept of hybrid threat from a capabilities-based perspective, as evidenced by the way it explains hybrid threat in its writings, from the 2015 National Military Strategy to US Army training circulars. This perspective is problematic, as it shapes our understanding in too narrow of a manner and fails to account for the contextual and strategic underpinnings that underlie any hybrid threat. A holistic understanding of hybrid threat is necessary, one that focuses on the cognitive foundation of historical perspective, culture and values that create hybrid military activity. If we are to understand hybrid warfare, we must view it as a strategic concept which develops from the aggregation of beliefs, values, norms and behaviors of the entity that employs it. In other words, it requires us to move past doctrinal descriptors and universal models, towards a theory of hybrid warfare that understands it as a cognitive construct that enables and structures hybrid strategy and operations.

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  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

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