EOSAustralia’s strategic environment is changing rapidly, with hybrid warfare coming to the fore. What type of warfare is this? Simply that the armed forces of countries in the region, including our own, are one part of a broader strategic landscape including political, economic, industry and civil spheres.

The art of moving between conventional and unconventional modes of warfare to exploit an opponent’s specific vulnerabilities, which blurs the distinction between peace and war, represents a huge challenge.

Conventional warfare is being impacted by new capabilities and activities in cyberspace, technology and with on-line information. Authoritarian countries active in the ‘grey zone’ are presenting enormous challenges to democratic nations like Australia and its closest allies.

It is conceivable that future conflicts might be won without any shots being fired. But that is only one marker in a long-term strategic timeline.

Authoritarian states are evolving their capacity to develop and deploy offensive tools from their cyber enabled, information and hybrid warfare arsenals. Their  leaders are not constrained by democratic principles, since they wield tightly held reins of power.

They can employ and/or play by different rules to achieve broad effects rather than narrow gains. Authoritarian leaders don’t have to face periodic elections (or if they do, the outcome is hardly in doubt), which aids continuity in strategic planning and execution.

Governments around the world are also currently grappling with how to deal with disinformation-for-hire operations and cyber-enabled foreign interference.

Australia is deeply concerned about foreign interference through social media because like most other countries, this emerging online phenomenon has fallen down the cracks between intelligence, policing and policy agencies. And it’s not only nation-states that interfere in elections and manipulate political discourse. A range of commercial services increasingly engage in such activities, operating in a shadowy online influence-for-hire economy. Democratic countries like Australia need to understand that strategic thinking and actions are a long game and democracies must overcome their tendency to view conflict as being initiated by some critical event, rather than as an ongoing phenomenon.

This is an excerpt from APDR. To read the entire story, click here.


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