This commentary is based on remarks by the PfPC's Executive Director, Raphael Perl, at the 12th Annual Student Conference: Hackers, Contractors and Drones: Warfare in the 21st Century, The Diplomatic Academy of Vienna, April 22, 2016. The main theme of the commentary is that no country – especially a democracy – can remain fully mobilized indefinitely, and that society's goal should be to manage asymmetric attacks without descending down the path of a police state, with the loss of freedom that such a path would entail. In dealing with asymmetric warfare, society must be prepared to acknowledge and accept the inevitability of asymmetric attacks and losses, while maintaining the resiliency of society to function in their aftermath.
Hybrid conflicts are complex phenomena that do not readily fit into today’s security policy frameworks. Further aggravating matters is (1) the absence of an accepted legal definition and (2) the use of conventional and nonconventional tools by combatants to achieve their ends often coupled with a blatant disregard for international law. Such practices impede the ability of policymakers to pre-empt and resolve hybrid conflicts within traditional policy frameworks.
Despite difficulties, policymakers can recognize certain characteristics of hybrid conflict, such as the coordinated use of conventional and non-conventional means in conjunction with the use of media and other force-multiplier technologies to reduce the power of state response. When facing hybrid conflicts policymakers would be well served to (1) consider means to enhance human and cultural intelligence, (2) improve early warning and enhance understanding of technological developments and the increased role of social media, and (3) adopt a more comprehensive approach to better enable institutions to respond to hybrid warfare.