Hybrid Threats: Reconceptualizing the Evolving Character of Modern Conflict (Strategic Forum, Number 240, April 2009)
NATIONAL DEFENSE UNIV WASHINGTON DC INST FOR NATIONAL STRATEGIC STUDIES
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Americas ongoing battles in Afghanistan and Iraq have highlighted limitations in our understanding of the complexity of modern warfare. Furthermore, our cultural prism has retarded the institutionalization of capabilities needed to prevail in stabilization and counterinsurgency missions. An ongoing debate about future threats is often framed as a dichotomous choice between counterinsurgency and conventional war. This oversimplifies defense planning and resource allocation decisions. Instead of fundamentally different approaches, we should expect competitors who will employ all forms of war, perhaps simultaneously. Such multimodal threats are often called hybrid threats. Hybrid adversaries employ combinations of capabilities to gain an asymmetric advantage. Thus, the choice is not simply one of preparing for long-term stability operations or high-intensity conflict. We must be able to do both simultaneously against enemies far more ruthless than todays. This essay widens the aperture of the current debate to account for this threat. It compares and contrasts four competing perspectives and evaluates them for readiness and risk implications. This risk assessment argues that the hybrid threat presents the most operational risk in the near- to midterm. Accordingly, it concludes that hybrid threats are a better focal point for considering alternative joint force postures.
- Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics