Hybrid Conflicts and Information Warfare: New Labels, Old Politics

By Keshavarz, Alma | Parameters, Winter 2018 | Go to article overview

Hybrid Conflicts and Information Warfare: New Labels, Old Politics


Keshavarz, Alma, Parameters


Hybrid Conflicts and Information Warfare: New Labels, Old Politics

Edited by Ofer Fridman, Vitaly Kabernik, and James C. Pearce

This book is a compilation of essays written by Western and Russian scholars on the nature of hybrid war and information warfare. The dynamic makes for an interesting read as the authors provide analysis through the prism of either a Western or a Russian scholar. The book is strategically organized into three sections with two chapters by Western authors, two by Russian authors, and a chapter by James C. Pearce.

The chapters focus on the changing nature of warfare, particularly information warfare and hybrid war. Russia and the Islamic State are used essentially as case studies to demonstrate the importance of hybridity and information warfare in today's conflicts. A number of authors in the book, beginning with David Betz, build from Frank Hoffman's definition of hybrid war as a mixture of conventional, irregular, terrorism, and criminality. Therefore, hybridity is the convergence of various modes of warfare.

For Russian scholar Georgy Filimonov, hybrid warfare "describes a situation where an external controlling power brings the protest-potential masses... and different types of destructive opposition forces... to the forefront of the fight against adversary political regimes" (25). He applies his theory to academic, professional, and military perceptions of the Color revolutions, and argues Russia perceives hybrid warfare differently. Western nations view hybrid warfare as part of "intelligence" in warfighting that incorporates irregular tactics, special operations forces, cyber, political, and economic spheres as well as popular protests (28). For Filimonov, hybrid warfare "blurs the line between war and peace by intentionally destabilizing not only individual states, but also entire regions, without a clear declaration of war" (32).

Another Russian scholar, Vitaly Kabernik, distinguishes between war and warfare by Russian military thinking and uses three cases to show the stages of hybridity, and the lessons learned by the Russian military: the partisan movement during the Great Patriotic War, the Soviet engagement in Afghanistan, and the Chechen conflicts.

The second part of the book addresses the role of social media in information warfare and hybrid war. The authors analyze how new technologies allow groups to take advantage of large-scale information dissemination. Matthew Armstrong resurrects the idea of the US Information Agency. He explains the organization was a "tool of information warfare while the Russians waged political warfare across nonmilitary fronts" that can be valuable today (114). …

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