In an Age of Civilizational Conflict

Article Source: Jurimetrics, Vol. 56, No. 4, pp. 387-406, 2016
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The military forces of the United States are stronger than those of any other power; conflict is forced into other areas, such as financial markets. This is called "new generation warfare" or "hybrid warfare."


Policy Relevance:

The United States is at a disadvantage in waging hybrid warfare, but can adapt.


Key Takeaways:
  • When Russia invaded the Ukraine, psychological warfare, political subversion, intimidation, bribery, and propaganda were used to foster internal decay; combat was minimal.
  • Information technologies generate far more information than we can comprehend; information need not be blocked or banned if subgroups of the population only seek information that supports their existing worldview.
  • The Chinese have developed "unrestricted warfare," which includes weapons such as a stock market crash, a computer virus, or a scandal that affects exchange rates or national leadership.
  • Nation-states are challenged by non-state actors such as ISIS; accelerating technological, social, and cultural change leads to a rejection of Western norms and a retreat to faith.
  • The new Chinese and Russian strategies share some common elements:
    • Conflict is re-imagined as a long-term competition between opposing civilizations.
    • Whenever conventional military action is too costly, conflict extends to domains such as civilian cyberspace or global financial systems.
    • Conflict levels are held below levels that trigger actual fighting.
  • Deeply rooted cultural factors leave America at a disadvantage in hybrid warfare; these include:
    • The dominance of civilian over military leadership in America.
    • Respect for the rule of law.
    • Boundaries between commercial firms and the government.
  • American institutions are innovative and flexible, and can evolve new responses to hybrid warfare.
  • The belief that the success of any society will lead to peace and prosperity that benefits all is a powerful weapon; in most recent conflicts, the United States is not attempting to establish domination, but to enforce international norms that benefit most states.



 Braden Allenby

About Braden Allenby

Braden R. Allenby is Lincoln Professor of Engineering and Ethics in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment at Arizona State University. He is also Professor of Law and President's Professor of Civil, Environmental and Sustainable Engineering. His principal areas of teaching and research are design for environment; earth systems engineering and management; industrial ecology; technological evolution; and the convergence of nanotechnology, biotechnology, information and communication technology, and cognitive sciences.