Hybrid Warfare And The Politics Of Fear

Hybrid warfare is the new buzz word in the corridors of power, but no one can prove the blend of conventional and cyber warfare even exists.

Some quarters were quick to brand Russian football hooligans at Euro 2016 as hybrid warriors after violence marred the game with England.

Police reported they watched 150 fans ready for the violence with weapons, uniform black clothing and flares.

One fan organiser was deported and French police claimed he had been pictured with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the past.

If anything, hybrid warfare is a new term for an old strategy.

Propaganda is nothing new

Conventional warfare is when armed forces carry out strikes against each other on land, sea or air.

Hybrid warfare is unconventional warfare linking propaganda, civil unrest and terrorism with conventional warfare. A good example is the battle for minds and territory promoted by ISIS in the Middle East and North Africa.

Propaganda and unconventional warfare go back thousands of years, to when the Greeks left the wooden horse at Troy.

More recently, the RAF dropped leaflets and bottles that whistled like bombs on Germany during the Second World War and psychological campaigns played a part in the Cold War and Vietnam War.

According to NATO, hybrid warfare came to the fore again in 2005 when the Hezbollah group in Lebanese civil war.

New dimension to warfare

Hezbollah waged war on the streets of Beirut as well as online through social media networks.

Military strategist and author Colin Gray explains on the NATO web site that future modern warfare is essentially the same as any other historical campaign but brought up to date with modern technology.

“Most, if not all, conflicts in the history of mankind have been defined by the use of asymmetries that exploit an opponent’s weaknesses, leading to involving regular/irregular and conventional/unconventional tactics. Similarly, the rise of cyber warfare has not fundamentally changed the nature of warfare, but expanded it to a new dimension,” he says.

Although acknowledging hybrid warfare exists, the 28 member states have failed to agree on whether NATO faces the threat from Russia, ISIS and North Korea, and if so, what to do about it.

Regardless of their decision, hybrid warfare lingers in the shadows as part of the politics of fear.