Hybrid Warfare: Real Phenomenon or Historical Myth?

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Hybrid Warfare: Real Phenomenon or Historical Myth?
Hybrid Warfare: Real Phenomenon or Historical Myth?

Today, the media actively use the term "hybrid war", often presenting it as an example of a "new generation war." However, is this approach legitimate? Is this term scientific, or is it just another of the many propaganda myths?


What it is?

To begin with, let's define what is meant by the term "hybrid war". It is customary for them to designate a type of hostile action when the attacking side does not use a classical military invasion, but achieves victory by combining various kinds of sabotage with the material and technical support of conventional insurgents. This also includes the cyberwar of the 21st century. Within the framework of a hybrid war, the attacking side in every possible way denies its involvement in hostilities. Such a "limited" war theoretically allows the attackers to maintain the conflict for a long time: their financial expenses and human losses will be incomparably less than in a conventional war.

Hybrid warfare is a relatively new term. It began to be used at the beginning of the 21st century. The wording was used by American military publicists James Mattis and Frank Hoffman in the article Future Warfare: The Rise of Hybrid Wars, which was published in 2005. Then Hoffman clarified: in his opinion, in a hybrid war, asymmetric (non-traditional) components, for example, guerrillas, are of the greatest operational importance, while in a conventional military conflict their role is rather reduced to the distraction of enemy forces. That is, according to modern concepts, hybrid warfare combines the methods of classical warfare, sabotage / guerrilla actions and new information technologies.


From antiquity to our days

Let's say "hybrid war" as a term really has a foundation. The main question is different: is it an example of a "new generation war", or has something similar been seen before?

It can be said with almost complete certainty that similar techniques were used in ancient times. Opponents did not always converge "wall to wall", but used cunning where possible. Let us recall the Peloponnesian War (431–404 BC) between the alliance led by Athens and the coalition led by Sparta. The Athenians captured the city of Pylos, just 70 km from Sparta, in the hope of a revolt of the Spartan slaves-helots, which would allow the Alliance led by Athens to move on to what would now be called "hybrid war". Other experts see signs of it in the Germanic wars of the ancient Roman emperor Augustus (12 BC - 12 AD). They became a "mess" of open military clashes, sabotage and reconnaissance actions and provocations of the Romans, as well as their diplomatic efforts aimed at disuniting and weakening the enemy. Some researchers also refer to the classic well poisoning tactics as "manifestations of hybrid warfare." In general, the ancient world was rich in "hybrid wars".


Elements of a hybrid war were very clearly manifested in the 30s of the XX century in Spain. The conflict of 1936-1939 became one of the bloodiest civil wars of the past century. At the same time, both the Soviet Union, which supported the Spanish Republic, and Germany, which supported Francisco Franco, used "hybrid" technologies. It was not only the Spaniards who fought. On the side of Franco fought 150 thousand Italians, 50 thousand Germans, 20 thousand Portuguese, as well as Nazis from many other countries. Germany sent a military aviation unit "Legion" Condor "" with a total strength of 5, 5 thousand military personnel. The USSR, as already mentioned, did not remain in the shadows either.The Soviets delivered 648 different aircraft, 347 light tanks, 1,186 artillery pieces, and much more to Franco's opponents. More than 2 thousand citizens of the USSR, including 772 military pilots, took part in the hostilities on the side of the Spanish Republic. The war in Spain, by the way, is very indicative of how methods and levers of influence are changing. If at first the Soviet Union provided passive assistance and generally wanted to distance itself from the war, then after 1937 it became de facto one of the full-fledged participants in the conflict.


Let's summarize. Components of what would now be called "hybrid warfare" have existed throughout the history of human civilization. Only they were called differently. The interference of stronger countries in the affairs of weaker ones cannot be called a "war of a new generation": it, we repeat, has always been. Somewhere it is more pronounced, somewhere less. For this reason, the term "hybrid war" should not be considered scientific either. It does not imply the use of fundamentally new technologies of warfare. In a broad sense, this is just another propaganda cliche actively used by the mass media.


With a request to comment on this issue, we turned to the historian, orientalist and editor-in-chief of the Asia.in.UA portal, Andrey Popov.

“Hybrid warfare has been the top topic of almost all media in recent years, but hardly anyone can say for sure what it is. This term is often remembered as a sign of a transition to a new type of war, although this is absurd: people always remain people - the instincts are the same, but the tools are different.

The problem is also that experts in this term put too different meanings. So, for some, “hybrid war” is a synthesis of “symmetric” and “asymmetric” tactics, that is, the use of both regular troops and partisan units in combat operations, the use of hybrid troops (combining elements of other types) or equipment. But this, too, is no longer new: the history of the 20th century is the history of such wars.

For others, this term has, first of all, an ideological and informational color, they say, “hybrid” can be called exclusively the war that is waged not only on the battlefield, but also in the information space, in the media and social networks, “bots” and “trolls”. Simply put - in the minds of people.

If everything is more or less clear with hybrid combat arms and equipment (with the development of technologies, such will invariably arise), then the second meaning of the term requires clarification. When there is a confrontation between two hostile ideological systems or propaganda structures using all available tools, but without declaring war, can such a conflict be called “hybrid”? If you use the clichés accepted in the media and the opinions of popular "experts", then it is possible (and even necessary - the audience loves this).

But if you dig deeper, then all the more or less major military conflicts in history, based on ideological differences, were "hybrid". There are a lot of examples.

Let's take a look at the wars of ancient Rome with the barbarians. Without declaring war through various priests and emissaries, Rome tried to advance its interests, not by faith so in gold. Also, Byzantium relied on Christianity as its ideological base in conflicts with the Sassanids, and then the Arabs.


If there were social networks then, the Romans would gladly use them to attract large masses of barbarians to their side. And bribery, as they would say now, of “local elites,” LOMov (l iders O social m neniya), was applied and then en masse. All this is included in the concept of "soft power", which was widely used by the Romans on the principle of "divide and rule." You say "hybrid warfare" is the newest "development"? Caesar would disagree with you.

Another example, fresher: the confrontation between the USSR and the United States during the Cold War. Was there a declaration of war? No.But was there a confrontation with the use of propaganda and bribery, with the use of the latest developments in the information space (from radio and newspapers to TV and computers)? It was. Even satellites were used. So, the Cold War is also "hybrid", like the Korean, Vietnam and many other wars?

We go further - the war of ISIS with their numerous opponents. Syria and Iraq are often used as an example of a "hybrid war," but tell me, what is the fundamental difference between this conflict and the war between the USSR and the United States with the Taliban in Afghanistan? This tactic was adopted by all sorts of Islamic rebels during the Arab conquest, and then used everywhere. Shiites and Salafis have been waging this “hybrid war” for centuries.

Only previously, they did not use social networks or online media, but relied on simple preachers and friendly leaders in the territory of a competitor. As you can see, the success of ISIS is based on long traditions, perfected with modern technologies.

The key to ISIS's success lies in mobilizing broad masses of Muslims dissatisfied with the current world order through modern information tools, as well as in training neophytes with extremely experienced field commanders. These people are most often former members of the detachments loyal to Saddam Hussein, who have not come to terms with the defeat and power of the Shiites in Iraq, or immigrants from Afghanistan, Chechnya, Pakistan, that is, from all regions where they previously used their skills in local military conflicts …

Almost all international conflicts are called "hybrid" today, they do without an official declaration of war, and sometimes even with a declaration. As an example - the Russian-Georgian war of 2008 or the last civil war in Yemen.

Even the situation with Qatar today is called by many. Say, this is a response to Doha's attempts to change the status quo in the Arab world through its main mouthpiece, Al Jazeera, and at the same time to “shake up” oil and gas prices, because this once worked with Libya …

The conclusion from all this can be made as follows. The concept of "hybrid war" was invented artificially, as part of the confrontation between propagandists and publicists. This is not the result of a radical change in war and, more broadly, of an international conflict as a phenomenon. Yes, the toolkit has expanded since ancient times, but the goals and objectives have remained unchanged.

Hybrid talk is for political talk shows, not for serious audiences. The current terminological apparatus does not require the use of such vague formulations that require additional explanations. If the term “hybrid war” is worth using, then only in the context of symmetric / asymmetric warfare on the battlefield, the use of new technologies there, but not in a broad sense, otherwise it will be propaganda, not analytics.”


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