In the 21stcentury, warfare dimensions have changed and warfare is not restricted to thebattlefield alone, rather non-military instruments and a combination ofsymmetric and asymmetric methods of combat operations and use of information inparticular is the highlight of the modern security environment.
Sun Tzu once said that “supremeexcellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting”. Countries are reapplying those centuries-oldtactics to generate the outcome they desire. This multi-modal ormulti-variant conflict is no longer a simple black or white characterization ofone form of warfare, rather it is a growing array of hybrid warcapabilities—from the use of disinformation and propaganda to sow internaldiscord and dissent within a country, to crippling cyber-attacks andpsychological warfare, to conventional military power. Today’sconfrontation requires operating with a perpetual competition mindset. Hybrid war starts undeclared and continuously aimsto influence public opinion and narratives, and spread manipulated publicmessages that are fabricated and promoted by aggressors.
Furthermore, the use ofmodern information technologies allows multiplication of the effect that bringswith it dangerous consequences and novel nature of this phenomenon. Media–print, electronic and in particular social media–arethe most used and effective manipulation tools, nevertheless, fake news is onlytip of the iceberg in the psychological warfare arena. Theattacker’s military operations are conducted covertly by irregular forcesagainst the whole society and, in particular, against its political structures,state authorities and local government, the economy, the morale of thepopulation and against the Armed Forces. They target the entire nation when they target ourethnic diversity, religion and culture. The confusion being created by the enemy is aimedat targeting self-belief and Pakistan’s desire to remain sovereign. The aim could be to divide and weaken the target countryso as to lay the ground for penetrating its politics in the future, resultantlyaffecting its foreign policy course, and even its strategic orientation. Thismakes it incumbent upon the academicians, religious figures, politicians, artistsand the entire nation to save our cultural identity by not letting anyonediscredit our culture and substituting it with cultural fragmentation based onethnic groups, gender, identity, and class, and by not letting the unconventional approaches, from information andcyber warfare to political manipulation to take root. The political leaders andstrategic thinkers must keep the nation hopeful and must not let the divisiveelements or hostile identities to strengthen and encourage dissent anddivision.
While wecan’t actually stop the enemy from waging this war, we may be able to preventit by correctly understanding and responding to the situation and by developingan operational concept and strategy to address the hybrid threats. An effectivecounter-hybrid warfare strategy requires political solidarity and agility alongwith well-tailored military capabilities. Ourapproach should be a comprehensive one, using a mix of military and civiliancapabilities and institutions, at both the state and grass root level keepingin mind that the potential opponents are always working towards improving theirmethods. We mustrespond to the vulnerabilities at all levels to tackle the threats emergingfrom multiple angles. Afight against an opponent that wages a hybrid war is a taskfor the entire society and the society must remain vigilant andbe prepared for hybrid attacks in all areas including information war and incyberspace besides economy and politics andmust remain resistant towards any misinformation campaigns directed by theopponents. We as anation should remain committed to protection of our freedom and stay unitedwhile keeping faith in the viability of the state.