Wednesday, February 27, 2008


Are We Ready for Hybrid Wars?

Arlington, VA, January 31, 2008—The Potomac Institute for Policy Studies has just released a new monograph that presents an alternative view of the character of warfare in the 21st Century. This new model argues that future conflicts will blur the distinction between war and peace, combatants and non-combatants. Rather than distinct modes of war, we will face “Hybrid Wars” that are a combination of traditional warfare mixed with terrorism and insurgency.

Conflict in the 21st Century: The Rise of Hybrid Wars, by Research Fellow Frank Hoffman, 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 much 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.

This concept builds upon and is contrasted with alternatives including “New Wars,” “Wars Amongst the People,” Fourth Generation Warfare, and Unrestricted Warfare. It absorbs useful elements from many of these concepts, and incorporates the best of foreign analysts as well.



Conflict in the 21st Century: The Rise of Hybrid Wars

Pertinent Links:

1) Are We Ready for Hybrid Wars?

2) Conflict in the 21st Century: The Rise of Hybrid Wars

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