The contemporary world is witnessing subtle and undeclared wars between contesting states being fought without traditional military engagements. This clandestine warfare blurs the distinction between peace and war. In this vein, ‘The Weaponisation of Everything: A Field Guide to the New Way of War,’ by Mark Galeotti provides a penetrative examination of contemporary warfare dynamics, which he aptly terms as ‘undeclared shadow wars of the twenty-first century.’

The author sees the world as an open battleground, where everything is weaponised, including culture, business, and information, suggesting a war of all against all.

Mark Galeotti is an erudite writer specializing in transnational crime and Russian security affairs. This book is an outcome of his interdisciplinary research in history, international relations, global affairs, and public security during his academic career in the United Kingdom, the United States of America, and Russia.

He substantiates his arguments with historical references and contemporary events without missing any logical proposition. Having a journalistic niche, the author provides lesser-known facts about twentieth-century wars that have shaped the contemporary war ethos.

The book’s division into four distinct parts facilitates a systematic exploration of unique facets of modern warfare. Galeotti’s inquisitive stance on the concept of disarming warfare in the opening section sets the stage for a critical examination of evolving military strategies, emphasizing the blurred boundaries between traditional state-to-state confrontations and covert operations conducted through proxies and non-state actors.

Central to Galeotti’s thesis is the notion of ‘weaponized instability’ and the proliferation of non-traditional actors in contemporary conflict zones. He identifies trends such as ‘soldiering-plus’ and ‘gig-geopolitics,’ highlighting the integration of military and non-military functions in powerful states. Through compelling examples ranging from Kellogg and Brown & Root American military contractors in Iraq to Chinese corporations like Shandhong Huawei Security Group having closer ties to its military, the author substantiates the multifaceted nature of modern warfare.

One of the book’s most compelling aspects is its exploration of the weaponization of intangible state assets.

Galeotti adeptly decrypts daily life objects that are increasingly leveraged as instruments of war. He opines that proxies and information such as hashtags, memes, and selfies have become new weapons and play a pivotal role in narrative warfare. He exclusively studies all the coveted weapons of war and suggests ways to mitigate them by adapting modern strategies.

While highlighting business and crime being weaponized, Galeotti argues that sanctions are not enough in economic warfare. He gives the example of Russia which the West has sanctioned after the annexation of Crimea, but it only slowed its economy to 0.2 percent annually. Similarly, Iran has been put under sanctions due to its nuclear program, yet it has not deterred the nation.

In contrast, buying friends and influencing people through corporate gain is a fitting approach to warfare. For instance, in 2008, when the French president announced the appointment of the Dalai Lama, French industrialists who had business interests in China played a significant role in pressuring the French government to recognize Tibet as a part of China formally.

The author accentuates that economic sanctions have somewhat impacted warfare but cannot be completely relied upon. If political consensus prevails, states can resist sanctions and embargoes. However, it will lead to the aggressor using a worse weapon, which is ‘crime’. Cold War has already witnessed the commissioned mafia as a weapon of war. The future domain of such mafias is organized cyber-mercenaries through which wars would be fought.

By giving the examples of North Korea, China, and Russia using private hackers to outsource the cyber war, the author reflects that if these states can do so, the West should not stay behind. It also leaves an impression that when the boundary between crime and statecraft blurs, the former should be taken as seriously as the latter.

Galeotti illustrates a strategic landscape in his book where every facet, from healthcare and law to culture and information, is weaponized. It shows the pervasive nature of war as these weapons could not be deferred from social ethos, making them more lethal. The author provides the example of China fighting a legal battle in the South China Sea by ruling out international courts, confusing the issues, and obscuring aggression in judges’ robes.  Similarly, history has witnessed the fall of the Berlin Wall through the song ‘Wind of Change’ and the CIA has been extensively involved in persuading Russian people through literary works like Dr Zhivago and Darkness at Noon.

The author underscores that films and e-games play a crucial role in influencing national opinions, thus engaging in unshadowed wars in the contemporary world.

Galeotti takes a different perspective from twentieth-century political analysts who opined that interdependence and global connectivity will reduce the prospects of war. In contrast, the author opines that war is a permanent phenomenon, though its pattern and intensity have changed. The future wars are all against all in which not only militia but civilians will also be fighting along.

The book suggests that war is unavoidable in the future; therefore, political strategists should learn to turn a bane into a boon. For instance, through Operation Denver, misinformation, which is a social bane had been used as a boon by Russia during the Cold War to propagate AIDS as an American biological weapon. He opines that the scale of using misinformation as a weapon has drastically increased and shows the potential to be used as a vital war tool in the future world.

Overall, the book portrays a weaponized world in which palpable entities and intangible facets find utilization as weapons of war. By that, the author projects a paramount question: if everything is weaponized, is it not meaningless? He opines that though weapons have changed, some weapons are more weaponisable than others; giving an upper hand to those who learned the art of modern warfare more efficiently. The book also encompasses pertinent literary recommendations at the conclusion of each chapter, providing a holistic approach to how great powers wage wars by weaponizing every possible means.

The book leaves a crucial impression that war is inevitable in the future. However, one key concern is how middle-power or small countries should normalize this emerging global challenge.

The book also suggests a new definition of power and victory as contemporary wars involve connectivity, influence, economic strength, and covert manipulations, unprecedented in war history. The book is a significant reading for strategic studies and warfare students due to its comprehensive exploration and real-world application of war weapons. It informs military strategists about the probability of weaponizing everything and suggests ways to balance them. It is also a good read for common people to acknowledge the reality of living in an open battleground.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email