The Globalization of Hybrid Warfare and the Need for Plausible Deniability

The Globalization of Hybrid Warfare and the Need for Plausible Deniability

Benedict E. DeDominicis (Catholic University of Korea, South Korea)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 16
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-9715-5.ch016


Nuclear powers battle indirectly through competitive interference within the political systems of third actors in addition to targeting not only each other, but also their own national public opinion. Postwar global human rights norms developed to include national self-determination for all. Covert intervention became politically preferable domestically to avoid negative domestic political reactions to perceived imperialism. Covert intervention decreases political resistance and costs to the intervenor. The nature of social media content distribution makes propaganda and disinformation distribution very extensive at relatively very low cost. These trends and advantages furthered the stress on covert intervention and the formation of national security bureaucracies for engaging in it. Russian state agency internet-based covert intervention via social media in the 2016 US national elections demonstrated that the US is part of the politically globalizing postmodern world that it helped create after 1945. The surveillance capabilities of the national security state will be strengthened.
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Adamson (2005) argues that due to American-led postwar economic and political globalization, the differentiation between external and internal security threats is increasingly blurred. “[N]ew security strategies of global policing [and] surveillance […] that emerge in response to this new environment will need to be accompanied by a set of new political strategies” (p. 44). Soviet-American global competition for political influence in the nuclear setting provided the template for what is today labelled hybrid/cyber warfare including security policy responses to it. “The covert aspect of information and propaganda dissemination … has been of exceptional importance during the Soviet-American cold war” [sic] (Cottam & Gallucci, 1978, p. 32). This external intervention, when observed by mobilized local political actors, would more likely be seen in effect as an intolerable violation of national sovereignty. This interference would contribute to intensifying domestic polarization within the target polity. The exacerbation of the perceived threat from the other would thus appear to vindicate the intervention by their respective external patrons in the eyes of each local client. Disinformation as a component of what is frequently called “hybrid warfare” encourages mobilization to meet the perceived threat (Isikoff & Corn, 2018, p. 44). The local competitor and its external backer depict this resistance-themed disinformation against the alleged threat to national sovereignty as in essence local. The external encouragement and support for one side or the other is purposefully disguised, if not concealed (Voss, 2016, p. 40). The multiple facets of elaborate disinformation campaigns may or may not be illegal. E.g. Russian hacking and theft of more than 150,000 emails from personal or Democratic National Committee linked email addresses was illegal. The intensely competitive for-profit US news media’s utilization of these surreptitiously provided emails via Wikileaks, weakening the Hillary Clinton 2016 presidential campaign as Moscow intended, was not. The complexity of the context intentionally obscures the external intervention in the view of local political actors.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Nationalism: A form of intense ingroup political loyalty opposing perceived challenges to the sovereignty of the nation. It is characterized by relatively intense emotional affect and perceptual stereotyping of self and other, outgroups stereotypically perceived as challenges to the nation. A community behaves nationalistically when the modal, politically attentive citizen is a nationalist.

Nation State: A state in which the overwhelming majority of citizens show their primary self-identification with the territorial community within the state through favoring it more above any other identity group or community. Examples include the United States, Russia, China, Japan, Germany and others. Multinational states, such as the old Soviet Union and Yugoslavia as well as Iraq, are not nation states. Neither are multiethnic states nation states. Examples of the latter include most post-colonial African and many post-colonial Asian states including India. Non-nation states, and multinational states in particular, are subject to centrifugal political forces among ethnic groups seeking national secession and self-determination. These centrifugal forces may maintenance of liberal democratic political regimes highly problematic insofar as democratic elections produce ethnic nationalist leaders seeking self-determination. The communities of the old Yugoslavia as well as in the old Soviet Union continue to deal with such secessionist and irredentist nationalist forces.

Nationalist: An individual who sees himself/herself as a member of a large group of people who constitute a community that is entitled to independent statehood and who is willing to grant that community a primary and the primary terminal loyalty.

Nation: A community which a nationalist believes should and can achieve national self-determination through acquiring a sovereign state for the nation if it does not already have such a state. If this community already has its own sovereign state, then the nationalist will be perceptually and emotionally preoccupied with challenges to this sovereign state, tending to equate the state, represented by its governmental apparatus, with the nation.

Polarization: Intra-societal stereotyping due to intensifying perceived challenges from other constituencies within a polity, with the different contestants portraying the other as disloyal, even treasonous, to the nation and its state. Polarization is most likely to intensify when certain constituencies within the polity portray their favored policy prescriptions for the perceived well-being of the nation as religiously, i.e. divinely mandated. Secular opponents, therefore, are more likely to be stereotyped as evil and disloyal.

Stereotype: A simplified perception of the political environment, specifically regarding policy targets. Differences in stereotypical patterns in perception emerge along with different types of perceived challenges to the perceiver from a target. An intensely threatening target of perceived equal capability and techno-cultural level will tend to be perceived as a diabolical enemy. A perceived weak, inconsistent and unmanageable target unable to resist the perceiver’s greater will and determination to achieve its objectives will tend to be perceived as degenerate. Dangerous adversaries perceived as superior in capability and techno-cultural capabilities will tend to be perceived as an imperial threat. Perceived weaker targets in capability and culture ripe for exploitation to achieve some other overarching objective, i.e. containment of a great power enemy, will be perceived as a colonial target of opportunity. Troublesome, threatening weaker targets in culture and capability will tend to be perceived as criminal rogues.

Power: The exercise of influence over the minds and actions of others.

Cold War: Intense bipolar international competition for influence and control between the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). It began at the close of the Second World War and continuing until Soviet-installed communist regimes collapsed in Eastern Europe in 1989 and the USSR itself disintegrated in 1991. This conflict was labelled cold because nuclear weapons made direct military combat between the two likely to result in mutual suicide through escalation to so-called mutual assured destruction. The US and the USSR and their allies and clients therefore competed indirectly through competitive interference in the internal politics of third actors. The Cold War established the template for international conflict between nuclear powers. The cause of US and Soviet conflict is still debated; some argue it was due to mutual fear, others argue that one or the other was bent on imperial expansion, and still others argue that both were bent on imperial expansion. The politically prevailing view in the US today is that the US prevailed over the Soviet Union in the Cold War. Consequently, American-dominated Cold War-formed institutions such as NATO are positive tools for international stability and peace. They should be expanded and adapted to changed circumstances.

Hybrid Warfare: A recent term for reliance upon covert and informal policy tools for interference in the internal politics and policy making in target states. This term emerged concurrently with the development of the Internet as an infrastructure vehicle and as form of media communication. Covert and informal modes of international political competition and influence expansion acquired greater emphasis along with the post 1945 nuclear setting. The need to maximize the degree of control over potentially escalatory conflict dynamics pushed policy makers to obscure their international victories, defeats and stalemates in order to lessen the potential for provoking nationalist hostility that would lessen the political decisional latitude available to policy makers.

Globalization: Increasing global awareness of economic, social and political interdependencies among states due to increasingly porous state barriers due to rapidly increasing commerce, finance, information and labor flows across these borders. Incentives to globalize ultimately relate to the imperative to develop a state’s economic and political power resources through integration in the global capitalist production chain.

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