Within the past 18 months alone, Russia annexed Crimea and is fomenting civil conflict and separatism in eastern Ukraine; the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) burst into international headlines by beheading civilians and grabbing land in Iraq and Syria; Boko Haram has been conducting a brutal insurgency in Nigeria; and the Houthi rebellion in Yemen has accelerated and driven the country’s president out of the capital. The United States developed decades of experience in countering these types of activities during the Cold War.
Rules—and the predictability they enable—are important for facilitating business deals, expanding trade, managing conflict and escalation, and conducting diplomatic negotiations.
America leads the world in military expenditures, spending more than the next nine nations combined — seven of which are either U.S. friends or allies. Q1: What is Gray Zone Conflict? One scholar lists numerous current relevant examples, including the ongoing crisis in eastern Ukraine. <> 15. Examples include Russia’s disinformation campaigns against societies in the West, its use of cyber activities to threaten western businesses, and its use of proxy forces to annex territory and foment civil war in Ukraine. Gray zone conflicts abound in today’s world. CSIS does not take specific policy positions. The United States is beginning to recognize how gray zone competitors operate. In other words, gray zone activity by competitors like Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea can have real, tangible costs for U.S. interests. If the spectrum of conflict is conceived as a line running from peaceful interstate competition on the far left to nuclear Armageddon on the far right, gray zone conflicts fall left of center. The system of political and economic predictability has benefited the United States, its allies, and its partners for decades. Yet U.S. conventional forces have been providing SFA in Iraq, Afghanistan, and beyond for many years, because the scale of the requirements far exceeded what SOF could provide.
A2: The United States should care because countries are using gray zone actions to undermine U.S. advantages, strengths, and interests.
�[�T� �Z@�I� They can threaten critical U.S. interests through “strategic disruption” — the danger that instability in key regions can upend the international political or economic order. They can also provide highly capable headquarters elements to help oversee these complex challenges — organizations and leaders steeped in interagency and regional expertise, with deep cultural and unconventional warfare knowledge and experience.
SOF are deliberately designed, trained, and equipped to address the part of the conflict spectrum where gray zone conflicts occur. The final section draws upon lessons learned and offers conventional force solutions to modern gray zone problems. %���� 4 0 obj At the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the preponderance of deployed forces — and all the directing headquarters — came from conventional troop formations, totaling over 170,000 in Iraq and nearly 101,000 in Afghanistan at their respective peaks. But trends such as globalization, mass access to technology and communications, and asymmetric reactions to U.S. tactics in Afghanistan and Iraq are converging into an era where more and more conflicts are being fought at the lower end of the conflict spectrum. However, it will have to remember, or re-learn and adapt, if it is to be as successful in the future. Yet military capabilities will remain an essential part of U.S. responses — and none more so than special operations forces (SOF). The US Is Out of Position in the Indo-Pacific Region, An Army Transformed: USINDOPACOM Hypercompetition and US Army Theater Design, Memorandum for SECDEF: Restore “Shock” in Strategic Planning, COVID-19 and Indo-Pacific Strategy: Korea is Up, China is Down, and the US (For Now) is Out.
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