Gray is Here to Stay: Principles from the Interim National Security Strategic Guidance on Competing in the Gray Zone - Modern War Institute
mwi.usma.edu · by Kevin Bilms · March 25, 2021
An important essay today.America must embrace its irregular warfare capabilities and be able to compete in Great Power Competition where dominant ' 'fight" is best described as political warfare. Irregular warfare is the military contribution to political warfare (and by DODD 3000.7 and the IW annex to the NDS consists of CT, FID, UW, COIN< and stability operations).
Although I am heartened by the author citing some of Bob Jones important work on unconventional deterrence I am disappointed he did not point out one of the most important sentences in the interim guidance: "We will maintain the proficiency of special operations forces to focus on crisis response and priority counterterrorism and unconventional warfare missions." Unconventional warfare is the foundation of irregular warfare and conventional warfare is at the root of the two SOF trinities: irregular warfare, unconventional warfare, and support to political warfare and the second being the comparative advantages of SOF: influence, governance, and support to indefgeigenous forces and population.
UW thinking informs everything SF/SOF should do.
UW is fundamentally problem solving; using unique, non-doctrinal and non-conventional methods, techniques, people, equipment to solve (or assist in solving) un.
UW is fundamentally about influencing behavior of target audiences (which can include a population, a segment of a population, a political structure, or a military force); therefore, it is an integral action arm of IO/PSYOP.
I am heartened to see the Biden administration use unconventional warfare when there are so many antibodies out there against it.
But I also commend Congress for providing the best description of irregular warfare that will never be adopted by the doctrine gatekeepers on the Joint Staff. In the 2018 NDAA it wrote: Irregular Warfare is conducted “in support of predetermined United States policy and military objectives conducted by, with, and through regular forces, irregular forces, groups, and individuals participating in competition between state and non-state actors short of traditional armed conflict.”
The updated 1st Special Forces Command Vision document can be accessed HERE.
"The 2018 National Defense Strategy articulates the need to shift towards Great Power Competition. While the fight against Violent Extremism persists, we must also turn our attention to near-peer adversaries who closed the gap on our Nation’s competitive advantages over the last two decades.
Despite these changes, the fundamental nature of our fight remains the same. The Irregular Warfare Annex to the 2018 NDS highlights that Irregular Warfare is inextricably linked to national security in the modern era. Our vision supports this enduring concept, which is foundational to our fight and is anticipated to remain an integral part of future National Defense Strategies as well. As masters of IW, we have always risen to the challenge - and we will continue to do so in the future. Just as our formations played an enormous role in the counterterrorism and counter-insurgency fights of the previous two decades, our role in competition will be crucial to set the conditions for success.
We will continue to serve as strategic sensors and members of influence networks which enable JIIM partners to impose costs on our adversaries in multiple domains, and set the conditions to win on any battlefield should deterrence fail.
To expand our competitive advantage, we must embrace revolutionary change needed to compete, deter and win against near-peer adversaries in an increasingly complex environment. We must focus our attention towards innovation that enables Convergence, Force Development, and CONUS-Based Operational Support. This vision lays the groundwork for how we will adapt to be the First to Observe, First to Influence, and First to Compete in 2021 and beyond."
(Editor's Note: I think this vision document well describes the two "SOF Trinities:" Irregular Warfare, Unconventional Warfare, and Support to Political Warfare and the comparative advantage of SOF: influence, governance, and support to indigenous forces and populations).
An excellent podcast from the Modern War Institute.
Access it here.
About the Author(s)
About the Author(s)
A complex proxy war between Iran and the US/Saudi coalition. Iran directly supports the Houthis and via its proxy Hezbollah. The US provides support to Saudi Arabia in its operations in Yemen.