Gray is the new black : great power competition in the Gray Zone
The 2017 National Security Strategy and 2018 National Defense Strategy herald the return of great power competition as the focus of U.S. national security after an almost three-decade hiatus. While the United States was enraptured with the “Unipolar Moment” and consumed with fighting terrorism, the character of great power conflict was changing. Leveraging disruptive information technologies and potent amalgamations of national power in a dynamic hyper-globalized environment, great power competitors are exposing U.S. vulnerabilities in the ambiguity of the Gray Zone between war and peace. U.S. adversaries like China and Russia are increasingly operating outside of traditional conflict models, exploiting our struggle to clearly conceptualize and counter Gray Zone methods. Examining recent literature and utilizing profiles of China and Russia, this work argues that the Gray Zone is an urgently relevant concept for framing the unique character of great power conflict in the present age.