Thursday, October 1, 2015

USSOCOM White Paper - The Gray Zone

I received this in an email and was ask to disseminate it. 

The 3.3MB USSOCOM White Paper dated 9 Sep 2015 can be downloaded at this link:


"Defining the Gary Zone Challenge 

Gary zone security challenges, existing short of a formal state of war, present novel complications for U.S. policy and interests in the 21st Century. We have well-developed vocabularies, doctrines, and mental models to describe war and peace, but the numerous  gray zone challenges in between defy easy categorization.  For purposes of this paper, gray zone challenges are defined as competitive interactions among and within state and non-state actors that fall between the traditional war and peace duality.  They are characterized by ambiguity about the nature of conflict, opacity of the parties involved or uncertainty about the relevant policy and legal frameworks.

Gray zone challenges can be understood as a pooling of diverse conflicts exhibiting common characteristics. Notably, combining these challenges does not imply a single solution, since each situation contains unique actors and aspects.  Overall, gray zone challenges rise above normal. everyday peacetime geo-political competition and are aggressive, perspective-dependent, and ambiguous."

I would make a few recommendations.

The gray zone is where revolutions, resistance, and insurgency take place.   We need expertise in RRI from the tactical to the strategic level and learn how to campaign in the gray zone to achieve strategic objectives.

1. First is to study the Assessing Revolution and Insurgent Strategies Project at this link.  The 46 case studies as well as the human factors and legal research provide a foundation for study of the phenomena that take place in the gray zone.  Those who want to understand the gray zone should study the documents and publications at this link:  Below are the selected or representative cases of the 5 types of revolutions categorized from 1962-2009.

Modify the Type of Government
NPA, FARC, Shining Path, Iranian Revolution, FMLN, Karen National Liberation Army
Identity or Ethnic Issues
LTTE, PLO, Hutu-Tutsi Genocides, Kosovo Liberation Army, PIRA
Drive out Foreign Power
Afghan Mujahidin, Vietcong, Chechen Revolution, HizbollahHizbol Mujahedeen
Religious Fundamentalism
Egyptian Islamic Jihad, Taliban, Al Qaeda
Modernization or Reform
Niger Delta (MEND), Revolution United Front (RUF), Orange Revolution, Solidarity

2.  Second I would look at George Kennan and his 1948 concept of political warfare:

3.  Third, I would recall the work of Sam Sarkesian on unconventional conflicts  in 1993:

Asymmetric conflictsFor the US these conflicts will be limited and not considered a threat to its survival or a matter of vital national interests; however, for the indigenous adversaries they are a matter of survival.

Protracted Conflicts: Require a long term commitment by the US, thus testing the national will, political resolve, and staying power of the US.

Ambiguous and Ambivalent Conflicts:  Difficult to identify the adversary, or assess the progress of the conflict; i.e., it is rarely obvious who is winning and losing.

Conflicts with Political-Social Milieu Center of Gravity: The center of gravity will not be the armed forces of adversaries as Clausewitz would argue but more in the political and social realms as Sun Tzu espouses.
Sam Sarkesian in Unconventional Conflicts in a New Security Era: Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam,  in 1993

​4.  Lastly I would read the USASOC White Paper on SOF Support to Political Warfare that can be downloaded at this link:

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