Hybrid Wars: What is New and What is Not?

On The Law of Hybrid Wars

Andrew Korybko, a Russian scholar/journalist, has written about a new concept, “hybrid wars,” with a long history in practice. The author refers to the Law of Hybrid War as “The grand objective behind every Hybrid War is to disrupt multipolar transnational connective projects through externally provoked identity conflicts (ethnic, religious, regional, political etc.) within a targeted transit state” (Andrew Korybko, “Hybrid Wars 1. The Law of Hybrid Warfare,” Oriental Review.org, 4/3.2016). His  concern was United States targeted efforts to undermine efforts by Russia to integrate with Eurasian states and the US desire to disrupt China’s “silk road” projects. It is clear that the concept refers also to efforts by imperial states, particularly the United States, to undermine any efforts by other countries to develop political and economic solidarity that might threaten regional or global hegemony. And Korybko added that ”Hybrid Wars are externally provoked asymmetrical conflicts predicated on sabotaging concrete geo-economic interests.”
 

The tactics of Hybrid War prioritize identifying strategic weaknesses in target states. These do not necessarily prioritize targeting roads, bridges, or power plants for destruction but rather economic, political, ethnic, or other vulnerabilities. Vulnerabilities may include ethnicity, religion, history, administrative boundaries, and socio-economic disparities. Using “soft power” the imperial state supports the introduction of seemingly neutral technologies or processes, such as the internet in the target country. New intrusions are supported by some Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) such as the Soros Foundation or the National Endowment for Democracy. NGOs claim to be motivated to facilitate political and economic development. As David Harvey has suggested NGO projects come with a frame of reference, a goal, and/or a conception of desirable economic or political paths the host country should take. From the Hybrid War perspective these intrusions are used to exacerbate the class, ethnic, and/or geopolitical tensions in the target state.

Most important for our analysis is the argument raised by Korybko that a critical precondition for imposing hybrid war (and a critical tool of it) is the pressure brought by “globally recognized” sanctions. Early in the process of imperial intrusion, victimized states experience increased costs for importing critical commodities, food, energy etc., constraints imposed on exports, and denial of loan requests from international financial institutions. As political instability increases, targeted states are forced to spend more on security, thus sucking resources away from domestic needs. Thus, the Law of Hybrid War involves an imperial state deciding that transnational projects constitute a threat to its rule and assessing historic vulnerabilities of targeted states. Then the imperialists institute policies of intrusion on target states through technology, expansion of an NGO presence, and organizing a global sanctions regime against the targeted state. From a Hybrid War perspective, the imperial power hopes for such an exacerbation of tensions so that regime change will occur without the introduction of foreign troops.
 

https://orientalreview.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/AK-Hybrid-Wars-updated.pdf

Hybrid Wars in Latin America

A team of researchers affiliated with Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research, published an essay online called “Venezuela and Hybrid Wars in Latin America,” June, 2019. The summary conclusion they drew indicates that “The elements of the hybrid war include: economic and financial suffocation economic destabilization, media and diplomatic blockades, the promotion of violence inside the country—including assassinations—the generation of chaos with the attack on essential services (including the electricity grid), the pressure for an institutional fracture or a coup d’etat and, finally, the threat of an external military intervention” (44).
 

 What we learn from the concept of Hybrid War (which is not new) is that instead of launching gun boat diplomacy as a first tactic (as in the case of over 30 US military interventions in Latin America from 1898 until the 1930s), the United States, in order to overcome developing regional solidarity against hegemony, identifies vulnerabilities in the most significant states (Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua) and launches a multi-dimensional campaign of destabilization, with traditional military intervention as just a last resort. High on the list are economic sanctions, commercial blockades, networking with dissidents from the wealthy, promoting a dissident local media, generating a whole media narrative for consumption in the United States and Europe that challenges the legitimacy of the existing governments, and generates a discourse among intellectuals, “experts,” that justify Hybrid War strategies. The latter particularly are inserted into left and progressive conversations about US policy. A significant facilitator of these destabilizing strategies iinclude so-called Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) which often provide aid, promote education, advocate for specific economic development models, and promote religious agendas. At the level of culture the imagery of high mass consumption and how it is intimately connected to a neoliberal economic model undergirds the Hybrid War project. And again, if all else fails, militarism remains an option (and throughout the period of Hybrid War, war remains a threat). https://mronline.org/2019/06/10/dossier-17-venezuela-and-hybrid-wars-in-latin-america/

Meanings of the Hybrid War Concept for the Peace Movement

We can deduce a variety of conclusions from the Law of Hybrid Wars.
 

First, twenty-first century imperialism is not solely or primarily about fighting wars.

Second, hegemonic powers, such as the United States, see coalitions of states as a threat to global dominance. This is true in Eurasia, the countries along the Silk Road, and in Latin America where a crippled Bolivarian Revolution survives.
 

Third, strategists do not primarily act impulsively. They see a threat, which includes transnational cooperation and resistance. Strategists then identify weak links in threatened coalitions. They formulate multi-dimensional, stage-by-stage responses. And these responses involve economics, culture, sowing seeds of division, promoting demonic narratives about target states, and at the same time they leave “all options on the table,” which means traditional military action.

Fourth, the Law of Hybrid War suggests that the peace movement must treat economic blockades, efforts to isolate target states in the international system, blatant lies about target nations as acts of war.
 

Fifth, the peace movement needs to be wary of false narratives and NGOs that are presented as philanthropic.

Finally, it behooves the peace movement to be cognizant of twenty-first century methods of imperialism; fashioning strategies that clearly and compellingly identify and combat economic sanctions, false narratives, and institutions that seem to be philanthropic as acts of war.
 

This analysis resonates currently with daily news accounts involving Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, and Iran and, while more complicated, Russia and China.

by Harry Targ