The push to modernize military affairs is turning to non-state actors and technologies to conduct many tasks that are traditionally undertaken by the states’ military forces. Governments seek out proxy alliances, private/nonstate military forces and technological proliferation when the political or material costs of directly intervention are unpleasantly high. The use of these methods for war helps states achieve their policy objectives in a way that can be plausibly deniable for involvement in a conflict. States engage in proxy and deception warfare to deny their involvement of a conflict. Deniability will be plausible when applied deception strategy. Almost every military task is outsourced; and the idea of nonstate actors participating war provides a revolutionary and innovative solution, but their roles and capabilities raise new questions on their scope of operations, legal status and how to hold them accountable to international laws and norms.
The Use of Proxy Forces and its Effect
Employing war on Proxy and deception theories has significant trade-offs and risks. The use or support of proxies, military technology proliferation and deception has several benefits for the states: the benefit to win the war, to maintain the status quo, to interfere the adversary, probe- weaken the rival, and challenge the adversary’s activities, politically and militarily. The use of proxies to claim plausible deniability has logical historical basis. In the Cold War era, the United States and the Soviet Union both used proxy alliances to reduce the risk of escalation. Both sides had the trade-off to control and deny their direct conflict to each other. Military and cyber-attacks by non-state actors are generally not considered acts of war, but more simply framed as terrorism; therefore, their sponsors can plausibly deny of involvement to a conflict. In this modern paradigm of war, some argue that war does not involve civilians, except as “collateral damage” retaliate for territorial incursions. In this thinking is incomplete because the war is a part of humans’ natural choices of collective violent activities for survival regardless of the states’ involvement. Overt military support increases both scrutiny and the chances of counter-intervention by the opposing rival. In the 1970s and 1980s, South African proxy intervention in Angola created massive violent and counter-intervention by Cuban forces. The main problem comes as a result of the proxy is that states do not always have the control over proxy forces, and not more coherent to the sponsor’s policy aims. The usefulness of proxies comes more from the intervening state’s ability to control and keep it focused on its desired policy objective. Sometimes, proxy and their sponsors have conflicting policy objectives that may create a rift between them. Proxies can prolong a violent conflict, which states what to disengage from.
In addition to state and nonstate proxies, the dependence of private military companies (PMC) has increased since the end of the cold war. Nearly half of the forces deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq are employed by private military contractors. Private security companies have rapidly increased from few hundreds to over 6, 500(Deborah, 2006). These companies are privately owned, and work for governments and nongovernment organizations. Hiring private military companies is cheaper and efficient than deploying state’s military forces. It provides states a degree of plausible deniability, which is helpful in managing escalation for both sides (McFate, 2019). However, the emergence of military privatization remains highly controversial. It displays the risks of hiring forces rather than commanding them. Private military companies are not primarily motivated by patriotism to a nation, but for profit. They sell and buy stocks, and all their business activities are done out of the public eyes. They’re heavily hiring foreign men and women fighters that have no duty to uphold the constitution of their client-nation(s). Another factor on private military companies,’ is that they both have contracts with states and nonstate actors, or both warring parties in the conflict. This place is the gray area of accountability and transparency for hiring private military forces drawing public attention, because providing security is an essential for public interests.
War seems shifting away from terrorism to great powers competition between Russia, China, and the United States. Each of the superpowers races toward decisive and strategic nonconventional military strategies. Deception, under Maskirovka doctrine, has been long practiced by the Russians for military and political showdown. Maskirovka is a Soviet military doctrine for deception to confuse enemies’ ability to predict and respond to actions. In practice, Maskirovka doctrine falls beyond tactical deception measures. It also applied to psychological operations; manipulation of the media and electronic warfare and many other forms of physical deception (Bouwmeester, 2017). In Strategy and tactic prospective, deception tactics can be deployed in a way to interfere with the decision-making process of the enemy. And the adversary will compel to accept the outcome of the conflict before even the conflict started. Russia has successfully employed a deception tactic on their involvement in Crimea, Syria, the U.S. presidential election and UK Brexit campaign; and effectively influenced the outcome while denying involvement. Moreover, Russia has successfully annexed Crimea without facing any military repercussion from the United States and its NATO allies. On January 19, 2022, at a news conference, U.S. President Joe Biden predicted that Russia will invade Ukraine while NATO Allies is not united on how to respond to a “minor incursion,” which gives Russia a green light to enter Ukraine. Another potential proxy is the Donbas region, where two self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic independent from Ukraine since the 2014’s Crimea annexation by Russia. Russia has cultivated close ties with these two self-proclaimed pro-Russian republics by recognizing their identity documents and issuances of Russian passports to Ukrainians from Donbas region since 2019, allowing them to apply for citizenship under an expedited procedure. This closeness with the Donbas region will strategically allow Russia to win the conflict with the United States and its NATO allies over Ukraine. Russia’s military and intelligence sectors have employed Maskirovka doctrine of denial and deception method to maintain plausible deniability in the face of the international arrangement. The deception is strategically used for face saving in regard to diplomatic and economic benefits. It is achieved by means of stealth, disinformation and, above all, avoidance of stereotypes.
Technological proliferation and Blowback
States are pursuing multiple weaponry systems with various combination of artificial intelligence (AI) and other emerging military technologies. These include missile launchers, drones, and cyber-weapons. These weapons are deployed in a different manner to transform battlefields in every aspect of combat and other options. The proliferation of commercial drones as a weaponized tool has changed the way actors must think about security. For instance, aerial drones are equipped with sensors to distinguish enemy and non-enemy tanks, and choose targets on its own to fire at them with its onboard missiles. Most of cyber-weapon technologies can be used inherently dual-use, defensive and offensive and often deployed for malicious action. Conversely, the possession of drones by nonstate actors has enabled terrorist organizations buy in black market to create untold violence and chaos in Middle East. Moreover, Cybercriminals commit malicious activities on networks with the intentions of stealing sensitive information from governments and nongovernment organizations. Additionally, the cyberspace domain is used to monitor enemy cyber-attacks and counter them with a barrage of counterstrikes (Said, 2011). However, the introduction of these weapons challenges advocates for responsible arms control treaties and regulating the use of the weaponized technologies. Legal experts differ on how to regulate and govern military technology in the international system. The proliferation of high-tech weapons to proxy groups and the privatization of war are likely only to continue to higher level to violence and cause unforeseen consequences. Given the enormity of the risks of military technology, lack of attention and oversight must be overcome by the international community and policymakers.
Finally, as warfare between major powers rapidly growing and multidimensional, including proxies, proliferation of military technologies with deception tactics and hiring private military forces, to utterly revolutionize warfare for effective plausible deniability. Privatization of military, proxies and remote warfare provides the government officials to blame someone beyond the scope of their control. Plausible deniability is an important tactic for deception in every military and nonmilitary argument. It makes fallacies work as a credible source of information. States should lay out the distinction between battlefield victory and strategic victory, a framework of wars and fundamental relationship with politics. Evaluating and mitigating risks across all these types, potential warfare will require careful prospect scanning and crisis anticipation by state and non-state actors. Hence, government officials and non-state actors must practice these cutting-edge technological advances with caution. New prospective awareness of the new development of weapon systems is warranted for the population. Private military companies’ rule of conduct is not strict as the state’s laws and regulation on armed forces. Civilian protection is not the top list of their priority as stated above, but for profit (Rondeaux, 2019). States should limit the use of these weapons and tactics especially in terrorist activities. Ban of certain proliferation weapons is inevitable, and suction those breach the suctions, agreement and international laws and norms.
Avant, Deborah. “Private Security Companies,” New Political Economy, 10:1, 2005, pp. 121-131. (10pp)
Bouwmeester, Han. “Lo and Behold: Let the Truth Be Told— Russian Deception Warfare in Crimea and Ukraine and the Return of ‘Maskirovka’ and ‘Reﬂexive Control Theory’” Chapter 8, in Ducheine, P. A. L., & Osinga, F. P. B. (Eds.). (2017).
McFate, Sean. “Mercenaries & War,” Washington, DC: National Defense University Press, December, pp. 1-43, 2019.
Poznansky, Michael. “Media Technology, Covert Action and the Politics of Exposure,” Journal of Peace Research 2018, Vol. 55; 3, pp. 320–335. (15 pp).
Rondeaux, Candace. “Executive Summary,” “Introduction,” “Russian Military Reorganization, Modernization & the Market for Private Force” (pp.20-31, 2019).
Said, M. K. “Missile proliferation in the Middle East: A Regional Perspective,” Disarmament Forum No. 2, pp. 49-61. (12 pp) (2001, March).