Author Biography

Armin Krishnan, PhD is an Associate Professor and Director of Security Studies at East Carolina University. Dr Krishnan holds academic degrees in Political Science and Security Studies from the University of Munich and the University of Salford, UK. He was previously a Visiting Assistant Professor at the University of Texas at El Paso’s Intelligence and National Security program before joining East Carolina University in 2013. He is the author of five books and numerous articles on novel aspect of contemporary warfare, including on military contracting, autonomous weapons, targeted killings, neurowarfare, and paramilitary operations. His next book discusses gray zone conflict and the threat to US national security.



Subject Area Keywords

Asymmetric warfare, Irregular warfare, Military affairs, Small wars and insurgencies, War studies


Strategists have noted substantial changes in warfare since the end of the Cold War. They have proposed several concepts and theories to account for the fact that the practice of war has largely departed from a Clausewitzian understanding of war and the centrality of physical violence in it. Emerging modes of conflict are less focused on the instrumental use of force to achieve political objectives and are more centered on notions of perception management, narratives, asymmetry or irregular conflict, the adversarial uses of norms, and covert and ambiguous uses of force. This article aims to systematically compare three more recent theories of war or political conflict, namely fifth generation warfare (5GW), hybrid warfare (HW), and gray zone conflict. The article demonstrates that although they have the same intellectual roots, they are also different in terms of what they suggest about the nature of contemporary and near future conflict. Each of them can enrich our understanding of contemporary warfare, which will be the key to mastering these new modes of conflict short of (theater conventional) war.


I would like to thank Thomas Dolan from the University of Central Florida for comments on an early draft of the article and the unknown reviewer who helped to improve the manuscript.