The gray zone is an operating environment in which aggressors use ambiguity and leverage non-attribution to achieve strategic objectives while limiting counter-actions by other nation states. Inside the gray zone, aggressors use hybrid tactics to achieve their strategic objectives. While hybrid threats have historically been associated with irregular and conventional warfare, their use in the gray zone leads to a dichotomy between two types of hybrid threats that can mainly be attributed to the need for ambiguity and non-attribution in the gray zone. The two types of hybrid threats are “open-warfare hybrid threats” and “gray-zone hybrid threats.” A case in point is Russia’s military actions in eastern Ukraine, part of what the Kremlin calls its “New Generation Warfare.” In this MWI report, Capt. John Chambers draws on this case study to recommend ways the US Army can improve its capacity to counter ongoing as well as future gray-zone hybrid threats.
Read full report here.
The United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) defines gray zone challenges as “competitive interactions among and within state and non-state actors that fall between the traditional war and peace duality.”
In the words of GEN Joe Votel et. al., “[t]he Gray Zone is characterized by intense political, economic, informational, and military competition more fervent in nature than normal steady-state diplomacy, yet short of conventional war. It is hardly new, however.”
The US Army War College team’s just-released June 2016 efforts are superbly coordinated and presented, with the bottom line that without significant DoD adaptation and defense activism, the United States hazards serial strategic setbacks in the face of mounting gray zone competition and conflict.
The links provided are a partial, work-in-progress webliography of recent strategic thought regarding gray zone threats, and threat deterrence, but CPT Chambers’ work definitely belongs alongside the following as must-read works:
For a legal analysis of conflicts between the war and peace duality, albeit without specific reference to the gray zone concept, see:
Govern, Kevin H., The Legal Way Ahead Between War And Peace (Chapter 16) (2008). Enemy Combatants, Terrorism, and Armed Conflict Law: A Guide to the Issues, Edited by David K. Linnan (Praeger 2008). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2093449
For non-partisan interdisciplinary efforts dedicated to the preservation and promotion of the rule of law in twenty-first century warfare and national security, see:
I appreciate your report but do not agree that the gray zone is exactly what we make of it bit it exists because we allow it to.. We define/determine the gray zone by how we react/respond. Either 1) our war threshold was not met, 2) our threshold of risk was met, or 3) we determined the situation was good enough for the moment and compromised (we are biased to deescalate). And, since this takes place “continuously” the “gray zone”, however defined, is in a constant state of flux.
I object to making the gray zone out to be something we can deal with. Certainly the adversary is not obliged to conform to our Joint Phasing construct.
Reference: Thomas C. Schelling, a contemporary of Kahn, offered a different take on thresholds and limited war. In a series of publications in the 1950s and 1960s, Schelling argued that many thresholds for high-order war were defined not by negotiation or firm public statement but by tacit bargains that were mutually beneficial to all sides. Schelling applied his interpretation of game theory and heuristics to the gray area between measures short of war and high-order war, and to “limited war,” or war short of total national annihilation. Competing nationstates find themselves in a continuous state of implicit negotiation, feeling out each others’
perceptions, willpower, and capabilities regarding war thresholds. Uncertainty and inaccuracy are endemic, yet, in most cases, nation-states find a mutually beneficial compromise.
So if the gray zone is in a constant state of flux and change, what do you propose we define it as? Aren't most definitions of things in the world defined in ways that we perceive them to be? I feel like just because something is ever changing does not mean the definition of such thing is incorrect or wrong.
FIRST AND FOREMOST, I WILL SHOW MY SEMI-IRREGULAR & VERY UNUSUAL REASONS FOR SAYING I UNDERSTAND THE "GREY AREA'S" UTTER URGENCY TODAY W/RUSSIA & IT'S PEERS (NOT CHINA AS MUCH AS CUBA/VENEZ…MIND YOU, PRE-RECENT MADURO/GUAIDO EVENTS BY YEARS/DECADES) AND THOSE PEERS EVEN INCLUDED SOF UNITS' FMR ADVISORS FROM GUATEMALAN SOF "KAIBILIES", VENEZ BOLIVAR INTEL UNITS LIKE S.E.B.I.N, CUBA'S CTE SOF (EX-RECCE/HUMINT SIDE OF THE CTE UNIT'S THUGS) AND LASTLY, ACTUAL RUN-INS W/POS ID'D QUDS-TRAINED PROXIES MERE MILES FROM CA'S BORDER, AND MANY BEING LEGITIMATE "HEZ" AS WE'D SAY…NOW—- I AM NOT DOD/DOJ, I DON'T HAVE ANY "TRADITIONAL COMBAT" EXPERIENCES OR KNOWLEDGE OUTSIDE OF SEVERAL HIGHLY LIMITED (VERY, VERY LIMITED) INCIDENTS (JUST INSIDE BAJA/MEX) AND MY INVOLVING MYSELF DIRECTLY (IN TERMS OF OUR GROUP'S KINETIC REACTION TO THE "T.I.C"/CONTACT W/LOS ZETAS)…SO LIMITED IN FACT, HENCE WHY I WRITE THIS LONG, EXHAUSTIVE SEGUE INTO MY POST…ALL BECAUSE OF THE LACK OF EXP IN BOTH MY PROFICIENCY & UTILIZATION DURING A PERIOD BETWEEN 2005 THRU 2010 IN BAJA (WORKING W/A NO-LONGER-FUNDED/RUNNING OFFSHOOT TACTICAL PRIV SEC FIRM WITHIN THE TITANGROUP/L-3 UMBRELLA) —-> So, as I wanted to say, I'm an author/SME (these days, I use that term lightly & w/all the humility I can verbalize as I know it don't hold TOO MUCH water right? lol) on "Asymmetrical Warfare in the Modern Areas of US Operations". Now, having known longtime childhood friends who went on to enlist post 9/11 (mere days after, most going Army or USN and straight to NSW or USASOC/ARSOF if poss), I later reunited w/them as an author who wanted to write about their time doing PMC work during their transitions out of the mid-east AOR they'd been accustomed to operating downrange in, and suddenly, I found myself w/a once in a lfetime chance to get certified (using my quasi-decent LE contacts and CCW cert etc to show I could pass most of the req'd testing and quals) and once I had, then spent years as a "trunk monkey" in the back of mounted PSD operations in Baja inside Yukons/assorted other SUVs, AND BEING SHOT AT (UNBEKNOWNST TO FAMILY/FRIENDS & NOT JUST FROM NDAs I SIGNED) BY LOS ZETAS/TEMPLARIOS OR JUST ANY SINALOAN AFFILIATED DTOs THAT HAD ANY REAL FIREPOWER. not even BRINGING UP the Russ GRU-paid/led/trained joint Cuban fmr CTE (SOF) and GRU Alpha and/or Wagner Group's earliest PMC-hires from the Spetz's old school communities (imho, at least) and these groups organized fro IRGC elements to travel FROM CARACAS (as we all know nowadays to be true, and no "yankee propaganda" as the local Mex Marines would joking refer to it as we'd get into blistering contacts that lasted hours…AND almost 60% of the time, the engagements would be w/trained folks who'd been in fights to the death before-kinda thing, men w/such utter Western style combat discipline that we'd be able to visually see cues like them "taking a knee" as rounds splashed around them from our liaison units w/Mex Federal tactical orgs and Marine dets, who rarely had as much of that same skill/courage and sheer force of will to put rounds on target (even at the very imminent cost of their life as some of our CA firm's fmr Special Missions folks from "the OTHER SOF command" would drop 'em in the opening salvos) yet no matter what, denial was the instinctual reaction EVERY TIME WE RETURNED W/SOME TYPE OF NEAR-PEER DOCUMENTED SIGHTINGS & ENGAGEMENTS in MANY AARs we had, especially as it grew when news, for instance, came back w/us that ACTUAL legit Quds Force elements were not just "on the way up from Caracas & elsewhere in Venez (and Managua, Nicaragua)….
I believe, with this limited non-military background but over two decades of acquired "on the ground/onsite" hands-on incidents and experiences w/ACTUAL near-pear threat networks from folks we didn't consider on the top rung till very recently (Iran? Sure, they were back then, hence the highlighting of it in our "debrief" you could say…but think about our SOCOM CJOSTFs in Iraq facing their newly given tasking of the CII mission/"counter-Iranian Influence" mission)…so when we saw evidence of joint Cuban/Guatemalan and Venez intel-run PMC type hodgepodge groups w/ACTUAL Russians inside some of them (I never, myself, just "bumped into one" though, several folks I sourced that from were from YOUR GUYS' most reputable units and had even spent years in their training cadre)… later, after some of us dispersed among areas between Nuevo Laredo and those like myself moving farther south to La Paz at the tip of Baja, many more fmr ARSOF/NSW veterans who'd stayed w/our team (as I was a 'terp–being born bilingual almost–and they all only having decent Pashtu/Arabic/Dari etc in their linguistic skillsets) and it's cohorts were moving, those aforementioned solid guys the GRU and Cuban CTE bits I considered "well sourced coming from them" were all guys who'd been w// that newly formed AWG unit before leaving, hence my ability to tag along during certain lower vis operations conducted by Mex/US ICE and our firm's fmr SOF folks, doing adv team ops in plain clothes, and seeing other stranger things myself…
I apoligize for the tangent and annoyingly long, rambling, seemingly incoherent chIronological references to what I DID and what it relates to UKR's "grey area" issues and the optics needed to vector in and eradicate what I believe is a TUMOR that is beyond chemo…a growing plague that is beyond sealed borders being used as a buffer….We should have sent every unit willing to go in the SOCOM (esp JSOC's highly exp EUCOM sides of certain Direct Action SMU and their renowned Recce Sqdns like "G Sqdn" at GREEN,where our team leader in Baja had just left, and same w/Black Squadron from "BLUE")/
Just my humble two cents.