In recent years, we’ve witnessed the Arab Spring, the Syrian Civil War, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and an annexation of Crimea. Television news channels are nearly hysterical reporting about covert Russian influence campaigns in the United States. Think tanks and policy councils weigh in on these events and delivered a series of terms like “gray zone conflict” and “hybrid warfare” which ostensibly describe new developments in how conflicts are prosecuted by both state and non-state actors. But is this really a new form of warfare?
A 1984 documentary produced by the Department of Defense shows its age in many regards, featuring camo-clad soldiers acting out canned scenarios and shooting weapons from the hip, but the opening monologue will make you wonder how much has really changed. “There are many kinds of war,” it begins. “The total war which most Americans know as World War II is a almost pleasant memory…the issues were precise.”
But today, “there are peaceful wars for the minds of men. Instead of information there is disinformation. A world of evolving nations, each with its political and economic power struggles, has created a constant stream of special situations. For a general war, for a unconventional war, for special situations the United States Army has created the Special Operations Forces.”