2021: The Future of Low Intensity Conflict – Forward Observer

2021: The Future of Low Intensity Conflict

Austin, Texas
04 January 2021

Welcome to 2021. New Year’s celebrations seemed to have been a mix of relief that 2020 was over and optimism for how much better 2021 can be.

There may be the expectation that presumably without President Trump in office for the next four years, our low intensity conflict is over. That perspective is misguided.

This conflict is likely to be waged well into this decade and possibly longer. There also exists the possibility of periods of higher intensity. With this in mind, let’s look at what’s ahead.

In my last Dispatch, I briefly outlined three initial conclusions about the future of Low Intensity Conflict this decade. You can read that missive here, but I’ll summarize the three points below.

1. Advances in technology will wipe out between 10-50% of jobs, depending on who you ask, over the next 20 years. These technologies will rapidly scale, and job losses are expected to accrue faster than new jobs can be created. We risk widespread and persistent joblessness. As a result, Capitalism versus Socialism will continue to define class conflict.

2. The Culture War will expand as biotechnology, neurotechnology, human-machine systems, augmented reality, and other advancements assault traditional moral beliefs and pose new ethical questions. As we saw with abortion clinic bombings and the murders of abortionists in the 1990s, we may see similar attacks against the people and companies developing these unconscionable technologies.

3. Far Left and Far Right groups have expressed a desire to engage in cyber warfare against the government. Radical and extremist groups have publicly advanced cyber capabilities as a strategic imperative for their revolutionary aims. In addition to nation-states and criminals, domestic activists and revolutionaries could carry out disruptive cyber attacks as a part of the low intensity conflict. The targets of these attacks are unlikely to be limited to the federal government, and will likely include commercial entities and critical infrastructure. (Imagine a physical protest supported by a simultaneous cyber attack against security systems of the target facility.)

I’ll eventually compile a cumulative list of why and how low intensity conflict will rage this decade, but for now I’ll add just one more.

Last month, the Department of the Army released a strategy that warned about how foreign adversaries would target Army installations, especially in the continental United States. We reported it in 16 December’s Early Warning brief.

Pointing out that the “homeland is no longer a sanctuary,” the report warned that foreign adversaries will target Army facilities and critical infrastructure, along with soft targets like the family members of military personnel, using conventional and unconventional means, including cyber attacks, protests, and criminal activity.

I noted that this sounds a lot like the Army is preparing for domestic hybrid warfare, or a scenario where the homeland becomes contested space due to foreign “conventional or unconventional means.”

It’s in this context that I add:

4. Foreign adversaries like China and Russia have developed sophisticated information operations and hybrid warfare strategies that foment unrest and complicate domestic security efforts. Foreign powers may already be providing, or could provide, direct or indirect support to criminal groups, protest organizations, and radical, extremist, and revolutionary movements. Hybrid warfare tactics commonly seen in other parts of the world are unlikely to cross the threshold of conventional war, but would exploit existing political, social, and economic vulnerabilities in the United States. According to the Army, this is a baseline scenario.

I’ll end this Dispatch with two final points.

1. This is the type of information we cover in the Early Warning brief. I invite you to try us out free for seven days. If you don’t find value in the report, you can cancel at any time within seven days at no cost. Sign up here.

2. Starting this month, I’ll be resuming my intelligence and security training courses. Now more than ever, it’s important to learn the skills and concepts required to navigate this future instability. I’ll be hosting Tactical Intelligence Courses in 10 states this year. You can sign up to receive additional information about these courses at https://forwardobserver.com/grayzone. I’ll be publishing my training schedule very soon.

Until next time, be well.

Always Out Front,

Samuel Culper

Samuel Culper is a former Intelligence NCO and contractor. Iraq(x1)/Afghanistan(x2). He now studies intelligence and warfare.

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2 Comments

  1. As a former federal officer working in Indian country, I am familiar with the problems in covering the desert and measuring the human terrain, that I encountered foreign agents using cover as illegal immigrants. I found prayer rugs and other “garb” not used by Native American. I can’t imagine what else is being planned but I don’t sleep well.

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