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© 2020 Jeffrey Robertson

Hybrid diplomacy to end hybrid war?

Sunday, April 24, 2016

In the press there is always an assumption that diplomacy and war are opposites. In the lead-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the New York Times reported on 21 January “Rumsfeld says Iraq diplomacy is nearing the end of its tracks”; on 13 March, it warned of “Diplomacy’s last chance”; and on 18 March it lamented “War in ruins of diplomacy”. When diplomacy fails, war results. The same as when war draws to a close, diplomacy triumphs. 

We know that this assumption is not correct - war and diplomacy are not opposites but rather can be thought of as two parts of the one whole. To paraphrase Clausewitz, war is an extension of state policy (or diplomacy) by other means. But it can pay to think in opposites to brainstorm new ideas or concepts - one such new idea that is already inspiring much research, is the concept of hybrid war.

According to the Nato Review Magazine, hybrid war consists of the blending of conventional and unconventional warfare, regular and irregular warfare, over and covert warfare, along with information warfare and cyber warfare. As noted by Dr. Damien Van Puyvelde, the driver of hybrid warfare is the aim to "exploit all the dimensions of war to combat the Western superiority in conventional warfare". It is most often associated with Russia's use of military and non-military means short of full-scale conflict to achieve policy aims in the Ukraine in 2014-15.

Going beyond the already cliched uses of the term 'hybrid' in coordination with 'diplomacy', a lot could be learnt from brainstorming what 'hybrid diplomacy' looks like as an opposite of 'hybrid war'. Could it include 'proxy diplomats' much the same as hybrid warfare utilizes proxy forces; decentralized and diverse representation as hybrid warfare utilizes commitment denial; or 'non-official representatives' much the same as hybrid warfare utilizes non-uniformed regular forces?

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