China’s use of non-military means to gain further maritime control in the South China Sea is a good example. Here, China has combined economics, information, diplomacy, international law and infrastructure construction to make demands on sea areas beyond what is internationally recognized as Chinese waters. To support the demands, China has built several artificial islands. This has increased tensions and led to diplomatic conflict between China and surrounding countries – including the Philippines, Vietnam and Japan. At the same time, China is flexing its muscles through the powerful rearmament of its naval forces, long-range missiles and other sophisticated (advanced) weapon platforms. The threat of a Chinese military escalation is intended to deter China’s neighbors from taking action.
4: The struggle for influence
According to lawfaqs, conventional warfare is mainly about weakening or destroying the opponent’s military forces and materiel. In hybrid warfare, on the other hand, opinion and politicians are the main goals – an actor wants to influence these. The struggle is thus about the cognitive – about how a conflict should be understood. Then instruments other than purely physical are often needed. The goal is often to erode the will to resist the actions an actor wants to impose on an opponent.
Attempts to weaken the civilian population’s resistance to resistance are not new in war history. During World War II, 1940–1941, German aircraft bombed factories and other civilian targets in London. One of the goals was to weaken British morale. The Germans hoped that low morale would weaken Britain’s ability to withstand a German invasion. The same logic was behind much of the Allies’ massive bombing of Germany and Japan in World War II.
The desire to win the support of the local population has been important in the US-led strategies to combat insurgency in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Using several types of psychological operations, they have, among other things, tried to spread a message that the United States and the other coalition forces wanted to build peace, security and democracy in Afghanistan. Nevertheless, the inability of the coalition forces to fulfill these promises has made the Afghans more negative about the US presence in the country.
In hybrid warfare, the struggle for influence and the hearts and minds of the people is also one of the most important battles, but the means used are rarely military. In Afghanistan and Iraq, the psychological information work was conducted by soldiers on the ground in close contact with the local population. In hybrid warfare, information and propaganda have been given a much larger and more “independent” role – far beyond the area of operations.
An important part of hybrid warfare has become the struggle for the narrative of war . By that is meant people’s perception of what is happening and who is “right” in a conflict. In our time, the internet and social media have a great influence on people’s opinions and actions. In conflict, this represents an important potential and a channel that both state and non-state actors want to exploit. A relatively new development in this context is the use of so-called ” internet trolls “.
Internet trolls appear as seemingly ordinary users in social media and in the comment fields of online newspapers. Their task is to write counter-posts often aimed at Western opinion. The aim of such misinformation campaigns is to create doubt about what is “true and false” and is therefore not a direct propaganda campaign where they seek to convince of one position. In 2015, it was revealed that there is a “magic factory” in Russia. It is said that a number of users are sitting there and spreading pro-Russian views – but not so pro that they appear as propaganda. Many believe that this activity takes place under the auspices of the Russian authorities.
Non-state actors also use similar methods. The ability of the Islamic State (IS) to conduct a comprehensive propaganda and recruitment campaign on Twitter and Facebook illustrates a non-state actor using information platforms to conduct mobilization and ideological warfare.
5: Hybrid warfare: means of power
There are many means of force that can be used in hybrid warfare. How they are used depends on what abilities a player has, strategic goals and the opponent’s weaknesses. State actors usually have a wider range of funds than non-state actors.
Roughly speaking, these means of force can be used in hybrid warfare:
- Information: The role of information in modern warfare has led many to refer to it as a “separate battlefield” . Information operations are used to evoke, reinforce or change people’s perceptions, attitudes and behaviors. Information is essential to mobilize people’s support or willingness to fight, whether nationally, internationally or in the war zone. For actors, it is especially important to control the flow of information in order to obscure activity they want to keep secret or to conduct propaganda activities.
- Political:The use of political means in hybrid warfare can take different forms, but is mainly about control and influence. The purpose may, for example, be to influence or exploit an opponent’s political decision-making processes, often with the help of information operations. Here, some believe that Western democracies are particularly vulnerable because the democratic decision-making processes within a state are often conflict-filled and can take a long time. On the other hand, authoritarian states, which exercise a much greater degree of control over people and institutions, can be more “effective” in their decision-making processes. Military alliances such as NATO can also be exploited by the enemy trying to sow discord between its members.