Skip navigation

Special: Hybrid War – A Global Crisis Close to Home

An inflatable boat arrives in the darkness. People haul themselves onto land. Children cry, a woman collapses from exhaustion, a man wraps a baby in a blanket. Scenes like this are being played out on a daily basis on the southern beaches of Europe. This is a bitter offshoot of hybrid warfare.

The terrorist threat and attacks all around the world, the Ukraine conflict, IS violence resulting in refugee movements - for almost a year now, the German defense ministry in Berlin has been saying: "hybrid warfare will be the key issue in the future of the Alliance." Humanitarian disaster, civil war, armed conflict - in many cases, non-military means are more effective than weapons for achieving political and strategic goals. The rules of war have changed.

Hybrid warfare is not new, but the methods and circumstances are. NATO is searching for a strategy against covert and overt operations, diplomatic pressure and economic coercion. The media war, consisting of disinformation, propaganda, cyber attacks and cyber espionage, started long ago. Military and civilian means are deliberately used together, blurring the boundaries between peace and war. As a result of the recent attacks, direct support is expected in France in the struggle against IS. What exactly does this mean for Germany?

A global crisis is moving closer in many senses. The signs are clear, and this raises critical questions. Who can guarantee that German arms shipments don't fall into the wrong hands? More than one hundred soldiers of the German armed forces are currently training peshmerga fighters in northern Iraq. Doesn't this prolong a war, or to what extent does it actually help people in the area? Gangs of people smugglers and the sea rescue operation in the Mediterranean - whom are these primarily helping, and what ethical challenges do they present for a soldier in the Bundeswehr and therefore, ultimately, for society? Our values are firmly rooted in the German Basic Law (Grundgesetz), and should on no account be called into question or undermined.

Especially in these times, it is important not to stir up fears and anxieties. The current population movements are by no means unique in history, and migrants are not an uncontrollable threat. Experts agree that terms such as "invasion of migrants" or "floods of refugees" are not accurately chosen with regard to current events.

 It is therefore all the more important to respond to the complexity of hybrid warfare in a measured and forward-thinking way, and to develop counter-strategies such as strengthening resilience, a better understanding of essential values, and a faster response capability.

 I hope you will enjoy reading this e-journal special, and that you will find its personal perspectives and sometimes controversial points of view both interesting and insightful.