Analysis / Strategy

By Other Means – Part I: Campaigning in the Gray Zone

The United States is being confronted with the liabilities of its strength. Competitors are contesting the rules of the international system and U.S. leadership. With the significant costs of engaging the United States in combat, and the growing range of indirect and non-military tools at their disposal, rivals are finding avenues for threatening U.S. interests without triggering escalation. Their coercive tools range the spectrum of fake news and online troll farms to terrorist financing and paramilitary provocations. Such approaches lie in the contested arena somewhere between routine statecraft and open warfare—the “gray zone.” A concrete and actionable campaign plan is needed to deal with this challenge; in order to do so, the United States must identify and employ a broad spectrum of tools and concepts to deter, and if needed, to compete and win contestations in the gray zone.

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Kathleen Hicks, Alice Hunt Friend, Joseph P. Federici, Hijab Shah, Megan Donahoe, Matthew Conklin, Asya Akca, Michael Matlaga and Lindsey Sheppard, "By Other Means – Part I: Campaigning in the Gray Zone," Center for Strategic and International Studies, July 8, 2019, last modified July 8, 2019,