Academic journal article Military Review

Hybrid Wars

Academic journal article Military Review

Hybrid Wars

Article excerpt

Those who cannot remember the lessons of the past are condemned to repeat it.

-George Santayana

WE IN THE WEST are facing a seemingly new form of war-hybrid war.1 Although conventional in form, the decisive battles in today's hybrid wars are fought not on conventional battlegrounds, but on asymmetric battlegrounds within the conflict zone population, the home front population, and the international community population. Irregular, asymmetric battles fought within these populations ultimately determine success or failure. Hybrid war appears new in that it requires simultaneous rather than sequential success in these diverse but related "population battlegrounds." Learning from the past, today's enemies exploit these new battlegrounds because the West has not yet learned to fight effectively on them. We still do not fully appreciate the impact and complexity of the nuanced human terrain.

One need only read our daily newspaper headlines or listen to TV and radio news about the insurgencies being fought within the populations of Afghanistan and Iraq to understand the validity of the above observations. Insurgencies rage within these conflicts' penetrated and often alienated populations in spite of our having first defeated the enemy's conventional forces. Our population at home usually wearies of the protracted struggles, waged, until recently, with little apparent progress. We are in danger of losing if we fail to fully understand the human terrain in these conflicts, as well as, perhaps, the even more decisive battlegrounds of public opinion at home and abroad.

In the context of hybrid wars, especially at the population level, outcomes should be approached in terms of success or failure rather than the usual military distinctions of victory or defeat. In this regard, the goal or end state sought should be something like "secure improved normalcy," not "defeat the enemy forces" or "overthrow the enemy regime." The critical point is that to win hybrid wars, we have to succeed on three decisive battlegrounds: the conventional battleground; the conflict zone's indigenous population battleground; and the home front and international community battleground.

Merging Three Battlegrounds and Two Wars

In spite of the stark lessons of the past-Indochina, Vietnam, Greece, Somalia, and, most recently, Lebanon-we have not yet learned to succeed on the three combined battlegrounds of hybrid war. Military theorists have started to call those conflicts "hybrid wars" or "hybrid warfare" (to include the Army Chief of Staff when he recently announced publication of the new Field Manual (FM) 3.0, Full Spectrum Operations) but few, unfortunately, have talked substantively about how to fight such wars and achieve enduring success.

Thus, hybrid wars are a combination of symmetric and asymmetric war in which intervening forces conduct traditional military operations against enemy military forces and targets while they must simultaneously-and more decisively-attempt to achieve control of the combat zone's indigenous populations by securing and stabilizing them (stability operations). Hybrid conflicts therefore are full spectrum wars with both physical and conceptual dimensions: the former, a struggle against an armed enemy and the latter, a wider struggle for, control and support of the combat zone's indigenous population, the support of the home fronts of the intervening nations, and the support of the international community. In hybrid war, achieving strategic objectives requires success in all of these diverse conventional and asymmetric battlegrounds.

At all levels in a hybrid war's country of conflict, security establishments, government offices and operations, military sites and forces, essential services, and the economy will likely be either destroyed, damaged, or otherwise disrupted. To secure and stabilize the indigenous population, the intervening forces must immediately rebuild or restore security, essential services, local government, self-defense forces and essential elements of the economy. …

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