The Irregular Warfare Center and Hybrid CoE Cooperation: A Vital Partnership for the Future

The Irregular Warfare Center (IWC) and the European Center of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats (HCOE) entered into a unique partnership in FY 24 making both institutions stronger and more globally connected. The HCOE was born out of a desire to strengthen NATO-EU cooperation on hybrid threats with the 2016 Joint NATO/EU declaration committing both institutions to counter hybrid threats in a cooperative manner. In this declaration, NATO and the EU voiced the realization that hybrid threats exploited the divisions between civil and military responses. Success in countering these threats requires combining individual strengths and areas of expertise. Finland answered the call in 2017 by creating the HCOE and, to date, 36 NATO Allies and EU Member States have become members of the Center.

SOF Should Not Be Used as Assault Troops: Lessons from the Russo-Ukraine Conflict

Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine, and its subsequent transition into a large-scale war, has shown that conventional warfare maintains its relevance in a world of strategic competition. At the same time, however, it has also underscored the inherently hybrid nature of modern warfare, with blurred boundaries between conventional and irregular elements. For Russia and Ukraine, this means that the conflict is occurring at all levels, tactical to strategic, and in multiple domains simultaneously: the front lines, rear areas, areas of occupation, the cyber domain, the information environment, and beyond. In planning for national and territorial defense, countries must account for this element, or risk mismatching resources in ways that degrade their warfighting capability. In this complex threat environment, Special Operations Forces (SOF) have proven invaluable.

The Vital Role of Airlines and Commercial Aviation in Irregular Warfare

Commercial airlines and aviation have emerged as a critical yet often overlooked element in the context of irregular warfare (IW). These assets are not just part of a state’s infrastructure, but they also significantly contribute to a state’s response capabilities. A prime example of this was seen during the U.S. evacuation from Afghanistan, where commercial aviation extended beyond its traditional role of transportation. It played a crucial role in strategic operations and logistics, demonstrating how governments, like the U.S., are increasingly relying on commercial airlines for matters of national security and political significance. In the face of IW threats, commercial aviation’s capabilities encompass the ability to rapidly mobilize resources, ensure the continuity of critical services, and maintain the resilience of societal structures.

Hybrid Warfare is Less Than Warfare: A Dangerous Illusion

“Hybrid warfare”, “information warfare,” “cyber war” are popular buzzwords or catch-all phrases frequently used in the international discourse, especially in the aftermath of Russia’s full-scale military invasion of Ukraine that began in February 2022 and continues to this day. However, despite the hype, neither scholars nor practitioners have agreed on a consensus definition of the hybrid warfare phenomenon, in particular, that would add substance to the debate over the informational and public opinion dimensions of contemporary conflicts, diplomacy, and security issues.

A Wagner Group Delivery to Hezbollah: Russia and Iran Reaffirm Mutual Objectives via Proxy Groups

As the Israel-Hamas War continues, questions loom as to whether Hezbollah, a strong ally of Hamas and Iran, will enter the fight against Israel. Both regional and international actors remain concerned of escalation as assistance provided by countries like Iran and Russia arrives in the Levant. On 3 November 2023, The Wall Street Journal reported that, according to U.S. intelligence, Russia’s Wagner Group is planning to provide the Pantsir-S1 system to Hezbollah. This comes as Hezbollah’s leading figure, Syed Hassan Nasrallah, gave a public speech the same day, praising the organization’s fallen fighters, asserting support for Palestinian efforts in the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict, and blaming the United States for the war.

Perspectives Apart: Unveiling the Indo-Pacific Understanding of Irregular Warfare

The turn toward strategic competition, due to the increase in conflict outside the bounds of conventional war, has also pivoted security researchers and practitioners toward the idea of irregular warfare (IW). Though IW has been practiced and written on for centuries, the term is not conceptualized in similar fashion across the world—or even across the organizations constituting the U.S. government. Though a globally uniform idea of IW is not likely, and perhaps not even desirable, due to regional and historical differences in conflict experience, it is still critical for the Department of Defense (DoD) to understand how allies and partners conceptualize IW in order to engage them effectively. The Irregular Warfare Center (IWC) has worked to fill this gap with a series of regionally focused studies and follow-on workshops on the conceptualization of IW. The first study in the series focused on the European conceptualization of IW through engaging with PME institutions in the region. The second study followed the same methodology but turned to the Indo-Pacific region. The results of the second study show that, like Europe, countries in the Indo-Pacific conceptualize IW differently, requiring a nuanced understanding of these regional conceptualizations to engage partners and allies in the region effectively.

Religion and Foreign Subversion: The Russian Orthodox Church

From social media networks versus bot accounts, factual reporting and disinformation, online support groups and echo chambers, and grassroots movements and astroturfing, the modern information environment provides numerous tools to reach audiences that can be used for both innocuous and malign intent. However, the state of today’s information environment allows messages spread by even traditional sources of influence, including religious institutions and other trusted members of society, to flourish, reaching audiences far beyond what was feasible prior to technological advancement. This has allowed religious institutions to emerge as a powerful force in shaping narratives in the modern information environment, whether it is to build a resilient national identity or as a political tool for foreign influence.

Incorporating the Principles of Women, Peace and Security into Irregular Warfare

Women have been instrumental in shaping the outcomes of irregular wars and guerrilla campaigns, from the ancient Amazons of Greek mythology to the female soldiers in the resistance movements of World War II. Their roles have spanned continents and cultures, including the female soldiers of the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War, the Kurdish women fighters in the recent conflicts in the Middle East, and the women of the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front. This enduring legacy amplifies the importance of recognizing and integrating women’s contributions in the context of modern irregular warfare. This rich tapestry of women’s involvement highlights the necessity for operationalizing the concepts of Department of Defense’s (DoD) Women, Peace and Security (WPS) Framework within the irregular warfare community of interest and reminds leaders and planners at all echelons — ignore women and their presence in the operational environment at your own peril.

Andor: An Irregular Warfare Story

The Disney+ series Andor—about Cassian Andor, a rebel fighting against the Galactic Empire—takes a dramatic detour from the usual Star Wars fare of lightsaber duels and epic spaceship battles. Instead, the show plunges viewers into the gritty underbelly of rebellion, exploring the birth of a resistance movement against the suffocating grip of the Empire. The show transcends mere space fantasy, offering a nuanced and captivating portrayal of the principles of irregular warfare and insurgency. 

Sportswashing: The Newest Weapon in Influence Operations in Irregular Warfare

The mobilizing power of sports remains one of the strongest catalysts for international interaction, bringing people together to address issues, challenge social norms, and bond over shared goals. Sports, like most entertainment industries, tend to be adjacent to politics. Individual teams and players challenge, upend, and address social issues, such as racism and integration with baseball great Jackie Robinson and the T.C. Williams High School football team, or sexism with Billie Jean King’s famous “Battle of the Sexes” match. Still, involvement in external social issues was not the primary goal of professional athletics.