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Defending against nonlinear threats

Deterrence in a Hybrid Environment

January 2020, Number 10.01

“Cold War deterrence theories are no longer sufficient to guide states in the current era of great power competition. The linear concept of military escalation is not valid in an environment where nonmilitary means are the tools of choice for aggressors to advance their strategic goals. Activities categorized as below the level of armed conflict now pose a significant threat to national security, potentially on par with military threats. States are also more willing to use nonmilitary means because of the inherent ambiguity and lack of behavioral norms associated with the use of these tools. Therefore, governments must revise the way they think about deterrence to take these changes into account and develop effective strategies that can better address national security concerns.

The inherent ambiguity in the current security environment is reflected in the lack of distinction between military and nonmilitary means. The military tools available to the state have been greatly expanded. These have traditionally included land, air and maritime formations and the capabilities designed to inflict lethal harm on an adversary, which is how they are defined for the purposes of this article...”

Excerpt from John J. Neal, “Deterrence in a Hybrid Environment,” per Concordiam: Journal of European Security Defense Issues 10, No. 1, 2020: 16-23.

Col. John J. Neal is a U.S. Army War College fellow at the Marshall Center. He attended the Command and General Staff College and has a master’s degree in international relations from Webster University. He earned a master’s in military arts and science from the School of Advanced Military Studies before being deployed to the International Security Assistance Force headquarters in Afghanistan.

This article reflects the views of the author and are not necessarily the official policy of the United States, Germany, or any other governments.