Tags: China, Conflict, Geopolitics, ISIS, Russia, Ukraine, United States, war
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One of the great fears in all this is that a gray-zone conflict—involving, say, U.S. and Chinese military vessels sparring in the South China Sea, or Russia threatening to deploy its nuclear arsenal—could tumble into an open one when some party miscalculates.
More likely, however, is that the patterns on display in 2015 will become more pronounced in the coming year. According to Laura Jackson, China sees the sea, and the earth generally, as only the start of its Three Warfares campaign—a testing ground for ambitions to control portions of outer space, which Chinesemilitary and legal thinkers see, in the words of one Chinese official, “as a natural extension of other forms of territorial control.” Russian military theory envisionsthe wars of the future moving from “direct clash to contactless war,” from “direct annihilation of the opponent to its inner decay,” from “war in the physical environment to a war in the human consciousness and in cyberspace.” In June, aNew York Times investigation uncovered how a series of web campaigns tried to sow panic in the United States by spreading fake Twitter messages, Wikipedia pages, and online news reports about everything from an ISIS attack in Louisiana to Ebola outbreaks and police shootings in Atlanta. This was not the work of mere pranksters, but targeted disinformation operations launched from a Kremlin-backed “troll farm” in St Petersburg. They were perhaps some of the first skirmishes in what Russian military theorists believe to be the battleground of the future: the minds of men and women, where every business deal, retweet, and Instagram post becomes a way of influencing what these theorists call “the Psychosphere.”
It’s a brave new war without beginning or end, where the borders of peace and war, serviceman and civilian have become utterly blurred—and where you and I are both a target and a weapon.