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Hybrid Warfare
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Hybrid warfare has been an integral part of the historical landscape since the ancient world, but only recently have analysts - incorrectly - categorised these conflicts as unique. Great powers throughout history have confronted opponents who used a combination of regular and irregular forces to negate the advantage of the great powers' superior conventional military strength. As this study shows, hybrid wars are labour-intensive and long-term affairs; they are difficult struggles that defy the domestic logic of opinion polls and election cycles. Hybrid wars are also the most likely conflicts of the twenty-first century, as competitors use hybrid forces to wear down America's military capabilities in extended campaigns of exhaustion. Nine historical examples of hybrid warfare, from ancient Rome to the modern world, provide readers with context by clarifying the various aspects of conflicts and examining how great powers have dealt with them in the past.


'… highly readable, cohesively organized, and enthusiastically recommended as an invaluable guide for understanding how previous antagonists have sought advantage with strategic combinations. It is suitable for serious students of military history, analysts of contemporary conflict, and professionals at the command and general staff college level.'

Source: Small Wars Journal

'The book achieves its ambitions in extending hybrid war in historical time and space, and of being a valuable starting point from which military professionals and historians can further explore the topic.'

Peter Layton Source: RUSI Journal

'Hybrid Warfare will prove rewarding reading for anyone interested in the problem of 'irregular' warfare, providing much food for thought about what is likely to be the most common form of war in our century.'

A. A. Nofi Source: Strategypage

'Hybrid Warfare will prove rewarding reading for anyone interested in the problem of 'irregular' warfare, providing much food for thought about what is likely to be the most common form of war in our century.'

Source: The NYMAS Review

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  • 1 - Introduction
    pp 1-17
  • Hybrid Warfare in History
  • View abstract


    This introductory chapter provides an overview of Hybrid Warfare and its chapters. Hybrid warfare will be a critical challenge to the United States and its allies in the twenty-first century, a challenge openly recognized by the U.S. defense establishment. The nine case studies in this book are representative of the history of hybrid warfare from ancient times to the present. They span the ages from the Roman experience in Germania early in the first century AD, to the Nine Years' War in Ireland at the turn of the seventeenth century, to the American Revolutionary War, to Napoleon's war in Spain, to the U.S. Civil War, to the Franco-Prussian War, to the Boer War and the larger British experience with hybrid warfare over the centuries, to the Second Sino-Japanese War, and to America's hybrid struggle in the Vietnam War.
  • 2 - Conquering Germania
    pp 18-44
  • A Province Too Far
  • View abstract


    Tiberius and Germanicus conducted a number of bloody and vicious raids into Germania. The best source for the operational and tactical methods of the Germans remains Tacitus. Tacitus, while giving full credit to the bravery and war-like nature of the Germans, still views them as an undisciplined mob. Unfortunately, this impression has embedded itself within most historical perceptions of barbarian warfare. Over the course of two and a half decades, German armies had annihilated one Roman army and nearly destroyed several others. Worse, despite the years of ruin and devastation inflicted by Rome on Germania, the German will to resist and the ability of the German people to defend their homeland grew until, in the early first century, they could face the battle-hardened legions of Germanicus and hold them to a draw. To conquer Germany, Rome had to win battles and win them decisively.
  • 3 - Keeping the Irish Down and the Spanish Out
    pp 45-71
  • English Strategies of Submission in Ireland, 1594–1603
  • View abstract


    Before turning to the specifics of the English strategic conundrum, one must consider Irish and Spanish goals. Direct sources from the Gaelic leadership are few and far between, and it is difficult to say exactly what long-range goal they sought. Crucially, in offensive war directed against English territorial control, the Irish lacked an artillery train, a capability the Spanish could provide. The Spanish had a different and not always harmonious set of goals and problems. English wars in Ireland have been portrayed as precursors to Atlantic colonization, and as such they supposedly proceeded without concern for the local population. The Irish rebellion only became insurmountable if combined with Spanish conventional power. They therefore turned all of their resources first to destroying the Spanish, after which they assumed they could eventually handle the Irish rebels. To preserve English sovereignty, the Irish had to be kept down and the Spanish out.
  • 4 - The American Revolution
    pp 72-103
  • Hybrid War in America's Past
  • View abstract


    This chapter addresses the peculiar framework within which the combatants in the Revolutionary War operated, particularly the British. In examining both the French and Indian War and the American Revolution, the historian is struck by the logistical difficulties the British faced in projecting power from the British Isles across the Atlantic. The Continentals represented the element that allows the Revolutionary War to fall within the framework of what has now been termed hybrid war. The French assaults on Hoa Binh and Phu Doan share similarities with those of the British against Lexington and Concord and from Canada aimed at controlling the Hudson River. Finally, one might note that both the British and the French efforts ended ingloriously with the siege of forces they had launched deep into enemy-held territory: for the British at Yorktown; for the French at Dien Bien Phu.
  • 5 - That Accursed Spanish War
    pp 104-150
  • The Peninsular War, 1807–1814
  • View abstract


    This chapter examines the Peninsular War to try to decipher what makes hybrid or compound wars so difficult to prosecute and to consider what ingredients might suggest about the design and execution of future military campaigns in which regular forces must cope with multiple concurrent conventional and irregular challenges. The peninsula's physical compartmentation heavily influenced and continues even today to affect its sociopolitical character, historically imposing on both Portugal and Spain (especially the latter) a degree of regional differentiation that occasionally has verged on outright separatism. The map of Spain was a palimpsest of kingdoms, principalities and provinces, many of them with islands adrift in alien territories. In the end, it is hard not to conclude from an examination of the Peninsular War that the best approach to hybrid war is to avoid fighting one in the first place.
  • 6 - The Union's Counterguerrilla War, 1861–1865
    pp 151-170
  • View abstract


    The Confederate rebels relied on a combination of local militia, home guards, and independent guerrilla bands to halt the Federals, and to defend themselves against their Unionists neighbor. The single most important fact necessary to understand the guerrilla conflict is that it was not purely military in nature. It remained at heart a struggle to secure individual communities, whether against invading armies or disagreeable neighbors. In the end, the Union response to hybrid warfare succeeded, although it was by no means an easy victory. Given the reluctance of many guerrillas to lay down their arms, the Federals appear to have been more successful in intimidating rebel noncombatants than in quashing rebel irregulars. In fact, considering what happened in the years immediately after the war, when the United States faced the challenge of politically reconstructing the South, many ex-Confederates were not the least bit fazed by wartime Union policies.
  • 7 - Fighting “this nation of liars to the very end”
    pp 171-198
  • The German Army in the Franco-Prussian War, 1870–18711
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    Military organizations engage in hybrid warfare when, having expected and prepared to wage a particular form of war, they find themselves compelled simultaneously to wage another type. German officers and military theorists explained the hybrid war transition in terms of an epochal shift from Kabinettskriege to Volkskriege, or popular war. The war that culminated the long process of German unification incorporated institutions and ideas deeply infused with eighteenth- and early nineteenth- century understandings of limited force and its utility. German officers deserve much of the blame for the cultural conceits that reinforced Germany's strategic posture. The basic problem of strategic culpability at the highest levels of decision making and social militarism at the lowest was strongly influenced by the high profile the German officer corps enjoyed, to be sure, but that fact should not obscure that the officer corps was not, in the end, the arbiter of Germany's fate.
  • 8 - Small Wars and Great Games
    pp 199-224
  • The British Empire and Hybrid Warfare, 1700–1970
  • View abstract


    Hybrid warfare is one of the few areas where Britain had anything approaching a modern conception of doctrine, complete with manuals that distilled experience and guided action. The British expressed its sense through ideas such as "small wars" or "imperial policing". Most British forces, whether coastal artillery or the Khyber Rifles, were designed for use in only one arena, but some (including warships or their crews, converted to naval brigades, or aircraft) were adaptable for many of them. By 1757, British infantry proved better in battle than any other forces in India and deployed techniques of siege and storm that broke a fundamental rule in Indian warfare. For Britain's enemies, politics was the biggest bar to the effective use of hybrid capabilities, which were vulnerable not just to a kinetic attack on its constituent parts but also to assaults on its political cohesion.
  • 9 - An Unexpected Encounter with Hybrid Warfare
    pp 225-253
  • The Japanese Experience in North China, 1937–1945
  • View abstract


    Japan would repeat what Napoleon Bonaparte had experienced in Spain after his invasion of that country. As a result, the Japanese Army was never able to gain complete control over the territories it conquered. Its control was largely confined to urban areas and the lines of communication linking them, which left large areas outside its span of control. The result was a prime example of hybrid warfare, with regular and irregular warfare intermixed in a fashion that rendered Japan's military forces almost irrelevant to the achievement of sensible political goals. A number of historians have argued that Japan fought the Second Sino-Japanese War without clear and consistent strategic objectives. A final point of crucial importance is the ideological aspect of hybrid war, which may need a study all to itself. Japanese military forces never controlled the vast majority of the occupied territory in north China.
  • 10 - Hybrid War in Vietnam
    pp 254-288
  • View abstract


    The war in Vietnam was multilayered, like a Russian babushka doll. It was a civil war within South Vietnam between the communists and other parties. It was a civil war between North and South Vietnam. Throughout the war, fear of China intruded into every course of action American policy makers considered for pressuring North Vietnam. Against that backdrop of multi-tiered hybrid warfare, one can examine the more direct choices in Vietnam and their implications. Such examination can now draw on the perspectives of former opponents to illuminate what worked and what went wrong. For the Americans, a war of attrition in Vietnam against an indigenous insurgent foe was not one they were organized for and trained to fight. Hybrid warfare influences every level of authority differently, creating tensions in training and doctrine, in the allocation of human and material resources, and in strategic and political choices.
  • 11 - Conclusion
    pp 289-308
  • What the Past Suggests
  • View abstract


    The basic issue in hybrid warfare has been the consistent ability of those defending their state or political entity to pose a twofold threat to their opponents. By possessing conventional forces that can at the right time and place concentrate sufficient military power to destroy portions of the attacking forces, a defending force presents the attacker with the need to keep his forces concentrated. Those who desire to wage hybrid war must possess the means, either from their own sources or from foreign aid, to maintain a creditable conventional capability, one sufficient to prevent their opponents from being able to concentrate on controlling the countryside and the population. A brief perusal of history would suggest that statesmen and military leaders should always regard war as a last resort because its cost in lives and treasure is rarely commensurate with its gains.


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