Understanding many faces of wars and power is essential to appreciate the cumulative build-up of internal and external challenges to overcome and determine "How Powerful India may emerge" (Rising or Super Power potential in short, mid and long term scenarios) in the comity of nations!!
In the 21st Century, everyone is aware of the increasing complexity of the global security environment due to fluidity and the sheer pace of change accentuated by sunrise technology innovations.
"Hawkish nature" in perpetuity will be real. So, remember Indians must always: "Power respects Power" In today's context, there are over 3 major wars (over 10,000 combat deaths), 18 wars (less than 10,000 and more than 1000 combat deaths) and 21 minor conflicts (less than 1000 combat deaths). No shortcuts to deter them. Wars/conflicts will always torment mankind.
In South Asia, ‘peace’ is an illusion. The external threats are multifaceted. Chinese affirmed policy in South Asia is based on its proverb, "One mountain cannot contain two tigers". The "Clash of Civilisations, values and ideologies" – three-in-one are a grim reality. Compounding it, the avowed
Pakistan policy of 1000-years Jihad to take revenge of the ignominy suffered in 1971 war will continue. Add to them, internal security boiling cauldron accentuated by demographic transitions reinforced by migrations disturbing societal equilibrium and vicious politics on grand display.
As per classical political science theory, war is the extension of politics by other means. Only when all other means fail, nations take recourse to full-scale wars. But, mankind is engulfed by round the clock conflicts – "globalisation of terror of all types", radicalism and extremism. Endemic in their state of nature and character, what with the highly heterogeneous state of a global society based on complex colour, clan, culture, religious and class diversity – stone-age to space-age divide.
ADVERSARIES COMING UP WITH HYBRID WARS
The "Battle Space" has altered dramatically. Adversaries are exploiting the fault lines of the cognitive realm to wage a new form of warfare – Hybrid Wars. Victory is won by the domination of ideas and narratives rather than by occupying physical territory. Most importantly, manipulating interconnected information-rich environments makes it increasingly difficult to distinguish between friend and foe. Brain Power dominates Brawn Power in the cognitive realm.
Military strategists classified transformation in warfare after the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 to include: classical conventional wars, nuclear war, insurgency and hybrid warfare. The shifts include massed manpower (Gen 1), massed firepower (Gen 2), maneuver warfare (Gen 3) to Super Insurgency (Gen 4). The latest form is classified as Hybrid Warfare (Technology Age War – Hypersonic, Precision Guided Cruise Missiles, Artificial Intelligence, Unmanned Combat Systems and Cyber).
Political Warfare includes the use of elements of national power; use economic leverage; exploit technology power; heavy investment in intelligence resources; non-State actors threats; the dominance of information arena; antidote to disinformation; exploit fault lines of ethnic or religious bonds or other internal seams
Today, strategic analysts are grappling intellectually to identify new trends in the future form of warfare: Where will the next war occur? Why will it occur? Who will fight in it? How will it be fought? What will be its nature and character? No easy predictions?
The accepted view of the majority is that Hybrid warfare, also "Gray Zone" conflict, is real. Hybrid warfare encompasses "the full spectrum of conflict including complex operations during peace and war". It involves political warfare – synchronised use of multiple instruments of power simultaneously and deliberately -that blends nuclear warfare, information warfare, conventional warfare, irregular warfare and cyber warfare with other influencing methods, such as fake news, diplomacy, lawfare and foreign electoral intervention. Winning wars without fighting battles is the most preferred strategy/course of action.
"Political Warfare" includes the use of elements of national power; use of economic leverage; exploit technology power; heavy investment in intelligence resources; non-State actors threats; the dominance of the information arena; antidote to disinformation; exploit fault lines of ethnic or religious bonds or other internal seams. It is all aimed to achieve end strategic objectives at least costs.
Hybrid warfare is also typically tailored to remain below obvious detection and response thresholds and often rely on digital technology's speed, volume, and ubiquity that characterises the present information age. Adversaries have been violating international treaties and norms. The defining characteristic is ambiguity with aggression and retraction alternating as per situational needs to achieve ultimate objectives. "Grey-Zone" conflict is the new terminology, which is not purely by intense political onslaught but also covers economic, informational, and military warfare that is short of conventional or nuclear war. It is on 'grand display' globally.
In sum, Hybrid Warfare/Grey-Zone conflict may be conducted by civilians and soldiers, including computer hacker attacks, trade wars, and finance wars. Anyone can exploit creativity, ambiguity, non-linearity and the cognitive elements of warfare tailored to specific vulnerabilities across the full spectrum of societal functions to achieve synergistic effects. Some view it as "the contemporary form of guerrilla warfare" that "employs both modern technology and modern mobilisation methods." By combining kinetic operations with subversive efforts, the aggressor avoids attribution or retribution.
So, nations must prepare to wage conventional wars and deter and dissuade full spectrum operations/conflicts. Prepare not only to deter linear wars but circular wars. "Defensive knee-jerk" reactions are a sure recipe for disaster. Full mobilisation of national power in all fields must be based on "Proactive" strategies against external adversaries and internal seditionists.
Next, understanding the nature and forms of "Power", especially 'National Power' is considered vital. Many variables constitute its holistic view: Hard power represented by Economic Power, Security Forces Power and Technology power; and, Soft Power represented by Diplomatic power and Sharp Power.
Not to be left out of consideration is "National Will (Unity and Purpose) and Great Leadership (NOT Good Leadership)", which constitute key variables of National Power. Undeniably, National Will is most critical. A nation divided from within is a sure recipe for self-destruction. Similarly, "Great Leadership to emerge based on a long term strategic vision" is imperative. People may vote and opt for "Strong Leadership" to govern them, but they too succumb sooner than later to become "Spineless Wonders" due to voter bank politics.
Even after World War 2, "Hard Power" was classically viewed as a projection of military and economic might that determined nations' Super or Great Power Status. Military and economic coercion became key instruments. Mao stated that "Power grows out of the barrel of the GUN". "Technology Power" constitutes a critical part of Hard Power – AI and cyberwar.
Now, "Sharp power", a type of Hard Power, is the new lexicon. Due to the horror prospects of Nuclear Armageddon in case of all-out war, adversaries all alike are increasingly taking recourse to "Sharp Power – Influence Operations Campaigns", that is, deceptive use of information for hostile purposes to destabilise adversaries by fake news and disinformation.
Hybrid warfare is also typically tailored to remain below obvious detection and response thresholds and often rely on digital technology's speed, volume, and ubiquity that characterises the present information age. Adversaries have been violating international treaties and norms
What's new about the Sharp Power model? It's the speed at which misinformation can spread. The low cost of spreading it through the initiatives in the spheres of paid media, culture, think tanks, academia, social media, trolls and botnets (network of private computers infected with malicious software and controlled as a group without the owners' knowledge), along with other outlets. It is cheaper, faster, safer, and more deniable than spies. In social media, "Friends" are a click away, and fake friends are easy to fabricate; they can propagate fake news generated by paid trolls and mechanical bots.
MISUSING SOFT POWER
In public diplomacy, when Beijing's Xinhua or Pakistan broadcasts openly in other countries, they are employing soft power, which should be accepted even if the message is unwelcome. China Radio International covertly backs radio stations in other countries that crosses the line into sharp power.
Influence operations campaign clearly targets specific audiences' cultural contexts. Their emotional themes are focused on individual factors like threats to the individual's identity, threats to a way of life or culture, reaffirmations of a person's identity, victim affirmations and victimisation. The societal factors include a sense of persistent and increasing threats, a clear alternative often involving a better future, a purported lack of a response from anyone else, clearly identified in/out groups and social validation.
Information warfare can play a useful tactical role on the battlefield, as in the war against the Islamic State (or ISIS). But it would be a mistake for them to imitate the authoritarians and launch major programs of covert information warfare. Such actions would not stay covert for long and, when revealed, would undercut soft power.
China, Pakistan and many others target their audiences to impose their views and ideologies by distraction and manipulation. In particular, the powerful authoritarian regimes, which systematically suppress political pluralism and free expression to maintain power at home, are increasingly applying the same principles internationally: use fake news and social disruption to reduce the attractiveness of democracy.
Over the past decade, China has spent tens of billions of dollars to shape public opinion and perceptions worldwide. The most notable of these is the ever-expanding network of Confucius Institutes.
China is employing the soft power of attraction (Wolf Diplomacy) and the sharp coercive power of disruption and censorship. These two goals are hard to combine. In Australia, for example, public approval of China was growing until increasingly alarming accounts of its use of sharp power tools, including meddling in Australian politics, set it back considerably. There is a slow and steady backlash on Chinese initiatives even in Africa.
In the past, sharp Russian power disrupted Western democratic processes and tarnished the brand of democratic countries. But, it has done little to enhance the soft power of Russia. The openness of democratic societies provides opportunities for authoritarian governments to employ "influence Operations". However, democracies must be careful not to overreact. To respond to the threat, democracies have not yet developed adequate strategies for deterrence and resilience—soft power springs from civil societies. Openness remains the best defence. So, closing down access (internet clampdowns) or ending openness would waste this crucial asset. Such actions would undercut their own soft power by following the authoritarian model. Also, shutting down legitimate Chinese and Pakistan soft power tools can be counterproductive..