‘Grey zone’ in Hybrid Warfare


Disinformation and deception are not new concepts in warfare, but we have seen a significant change in how information is being manipulated by nation states, especially through social media. Authoritarian governments have demonstrated the ability and intent to control information domestically. Democratic nations have a level of transparency and adherence to international law that precludes their involvement in disinformation campaigns. For similar reasons, they also typically aren’t prepared to defend against such campaigns. The hybrid warfare term may be in vogue, and its continuing use is uncertain. But hybrid warfare, with its various forms, is here to stay Related to hybrid warfare, the term political warfare commonly refers to power being employed to achieve national objectives in a way that falls short of physical conflict. Such warfare is conducted in the “grey zone” of conflict, meaning operations may not clearly cross the threshold of war. That might be due to the ambiguity of international law, ambiguity of actions and attribution, or because the impact of the activities does not justify a response. Our increasing connectivity and reliance on information technology is a vulnerability that is being targeted by two key threats: cyber-attacks, and the subversion of our democratic institutions and social cohesion. Both are recognized challenges to our national security. These are “hybrid threats” as they may be employed as part of a broader campaign – including political, criminal and economic activities. And because they feature the ambiguity associated with the grey zone, they are well suited to achieve political outcomes without resorting to traditional conflict. due to its obvious benefits to the actor employing it: deniability and exploiting the legal grey zone.

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