Module 1: Two New Threats
For the past few hundred years, nation-states have been the dominant threat within the global security environment. But now there are two new complex and ambiguous threats.
And, as you’ll see in this chapter, these threats will have a huge impact on regular citizens in the coming years.
According to a respected professor at the U.S. Army War College’s Strategic Studies Institute, Max Manwaring, the two new threats are:
- Hegemonic non-state actors: These are composed of invisible power structures, transnational criminal organizations, insurgents, terrorists, gangs, private armies, non-state actors and virtual states. While some of these entities have always existed, they are now mutating to take on some of the roles historically reserved for the nation-state. With the advent of modern technology and the global grid, these entities have achieved an unprecedented level of power to disrupt and destroy.
- Indirect & Implicit Threats to Stability and Human Well-Being: Whether it’s the National Intelligence Strategy (2009) or the National Military Strategy (2011) or the testimony of the Commander of USNORTHCOM before the House Armed Services Committee (2011)—all agree that as far as indirect/implicit threats go—that global economic distress, the environment, emerging infectious disease, proliferation of WMD (weapons of mass destruction), and increasing resource scarcity (whether real or perceived) pose serious strategic risks to nation states. As a result, they also pose serious risks to individuals.
But, it’s not just that these new threats are complex and ambiguous.
Part of the danger is that they will develop synergies with other important technological, environmental, socio-economic and geopolitical factors. The end result will be a serious challenge for security and disaster management structures in the first half of the 21st century.
In the end, as the challenge mounts, a whole new parallel, decentralized security structure will emerge. It will be a security structure in which regular citizens, private companies and local jurisdictions have much more responsibility for their own security.
But, before we get into the future global security environment, let’s discuss the present.
Threat #1-Hegemonic Non-State Actors
Hegemonic non-state actors are composed of invisible power structures, transnational criminal organizations, insurgents, terrorists, gangs, virtual states and private armies. While most of these entities have always existed, they are now mutating to take on some of the roles historically reserved for the nation-state. With the advent of modern technology and the global grid, these entities have achieved an unprecedented level of power to disrupt and destroy.
For the last few hundred years the prevailing theory was that interstate conflict (military conflict between nation-states) was the dominant threat to global security.
This assumption has now been turned on its head.
Modern warfare is primarily characterized by intrastate conflict—that is, conflict within—not across—a nation state’s borders. This kind of conflict involves non-state groups (religious or ethnic) fighting against the government or other non-state groups for independence, well-being or autonomy.
This shift is reflective of an ongoing change in the international distribution of power.
According to the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command, one of the most significant trends for the next 15 years is a shift in the global balance of power.
The US faces a balance of power shift ‘that rivals the end of the Cold War, if not that facing the nation at the conclusion of WWII.’ By 2028, the US will remain the world’s dominant political, economic and military power, but with a continually decreasing relative advantage over other nations. Emerging state powers and new, more powerful non-state actors will create a multipolar international system of power…. History indicates that ‘emerging multipolar systems have been more unstable than bipolar ones
<Source: US Army Training and Doctrine Command. (2012). Operational Environments to 2028: The Strategic Environment for Unified Land Operations. Retrieved from U.S. Department of Defense: http://www.arcic.army.mil/app_Documents/TRADOC_Paper_Operational-Environments-to-2028-Strategic-Environment-for-Unified-Land-Operations_AUG2012.pdf (See pg. 15)>
In other words, we are entering a multipolar world: a world in which there are more than two dominant players (formerly the USSR and the US during the Cold War). And, equally important, we are entering a world in which the dominant players aren’t simply nation-states—they are also non-state actors.
What’s more, history indicates this new environment will be more unstable than what we experienced in the last 60 years! In this new environment, unconventional operational methods and non-state actors will have a greater and greater impact on U.S. military operations.
As a result, modern warfare is undergoing a major BLURRING OF TRADITIONAL BATTLE LINES. Now—this is a big deal for regular citizens!
For instance, as one Army report indicates, “Responding to these types of adversaries (non-state actors with unconventional operational methods) is already blurring the lines between civilian law enforcement and the military; it may also constrain and stress the use of political, economic and military power.’”
<Source: US Army Training and Doctrine Command. (2012). Operational Environments to 2028: The Strategic Environment for Unified Land Operations. Retrieved from U.S. Department of Defense: http://www.arcic.army.mil/app_Documents/TRADOC_Paper_Operational-Environments-to-2028-Strategic-Environment-for-Unified-Land-Operations_AUG2012.pdf (See pg. 17)>
But, that isn’t the half of it—the implications are much larger!
What this new development means is that the traditional boundaries between war and crime; between war and politics; and between soldiers and civilians are now very blurred!
This has massive implications for what it means to be a regular citizen in the early 21st century. Why? Because Martin van Creveld (a very respected military historian) discovered that throughout history, when distinctions between war and crime disappear, then DEFENSE BECOMES A LOCAL ENDEAVOR.
In other words, citizens, private companies and local governments become increasingly responsible for their own security!
There is another big implication. What this state of affairs indicates is that we are, in essence, beginning to mirror the kind of warfare that existed in the pre-modern era.
In order to understand the future of warfare, Martin van Creveld encourages us to examine pre-modern warfare because he believes the future of warfare will have a lot in common with medieval warfare.
Listen to Martin van Creveld describe pre-modern warfare. This kind of warfare began during the medieval era (5th-15th centuries) and ended with the culmination of the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648).
“In all these struggles political, social, economic, and religious motives were hopelessly entangled. Since this was an age when armies consisted of mercinaries, all were also attended by swarms of military entrepreneurs….Many of them paid little but lip service to the organizations for whom they had contracted to fight. Instead, they robbed the countryside on their own behalf…. Given such conditions, any fine distinctions… between armies on the one hand and peoples on the other were bound to break down. Engulfed by war, civilians suffered terrible atrocities.”
<Source: Kaplan, Robert D. The Coming Anarchy: Shattering the Dreams of the Post Cold War. New York: Random House, 2000. Print. (See pg. 46-47)>
Stay tuned: We will continue discussing the global security environment with the release of the next module. Check back periodically for new content as it will be added on an ongoing basis.