Innovation by authoritarian nations in the ‘grey zone’ is becoming one of the most serious challenges facing contemporary democracies. It has long been recognised that future conflicts might be won before any shots are fired. But knowing that is cold comfort because authoritarian states are continually evolving their capacity to develop and deploy offensive tools in their cyber-enabled, information and hybrid warfare arsenals.

Meeting this challenge requires democratic nations, including Australia, to reconceptualise how they think about strategy: its core purposes, its main instruments and capabilities, and what success or failure looks like. Democracy’s authoritarian rivals—chiefly China and Russia—play by different rules, have different ideas about vulnerabilities and strengths and measure outcomes in broad holistic rather than tight linear terms.

Strategy is a long game and democracies must overcome their tendency to view conflict as an end-state with a precipitating cause, rather than an ongoing phenomenon.

Please click here to read the full “Learning in the grey zone: How democracies can meet the authoritarian challenge” article published at The Strategist, written by Griffith Asia Institute Adjunct Associate Professor Matthew Sussex.