By Frank Hoffman, Research Fellow, Center for Emerging Threats and Opportunities (CETO)
Conflict in the 21st Century: The Rise of Hybrid Wars, summarizes the background and analysis of the changing character of warfare in our time. Examining the debate over the past decade about the evolution of modern warfare in the post Cold-war world, several thinkers have claimed that we were in the midst of a “Revolution in Warfare.” Hoffman takes this discussion to a new and more mature level by recognizing that we are entering a time when multiple types of warfare will be used simultaneously by flexible and sophisticated adversaries. These adversaries understand that successful conflict takes on a variety of forms that are designed to fit one’s goals at that particular time—identified as “Hybrid Wars” in Conflict in the 21st Century.
Hoffman notes that it is too simplistic to merely classify conflict as “Big and Conventional” versus “Small or Irregular.” Today’s enemies, and tomorrow’s, will employ combinations of warfare types. Non-state actors may mostly employ irregular forms of warfare, but will clearly support, encourage, and participate in conventional conflict if it serves their ends. Similarly, nation-states may well engage in irregular conflict in addition to conventional types of warfare to achieve their goals. The monograph lays out some of the implications of the concept. Clearly the United States must be prepared for the full spectrum of conflict from all fronts and realize that preparing our forces for only selected types of conflict will be a recipe for defeat.