ILLUMINATING THE GRAY ZONE: USING SOCIAL MOVEMENT THEORY TO DETECT EARLY SIGNS OF SUBVERSIVE THREATS
Everton, Sean F.
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Although well-established indicators make it possible to predict hostile conventional military actions, few such indicators exist to help defense planners anticipate the onset of subversive activities by foreign adversaries. In the 21st century, however, Western societies have often been targeted by adversaries who exploit environmental aspects of the gray zone to subvert the democratic process and influence decision making. The use of non-state actors and social mobilization as well as non-military tactics, such as political, psychological, and information strategies, have frequently escalated to crises due to lack of situational awareness. This research provides a brief overview of the gray-zone literature, social movement theories (SMT), and social network analysis/social media exploitation to show how these theories and methods can enhance our understanding of current crises. Based on case studies of Ukraine and Estonia, this research uses SMT to conceptualize, examine, and identify early indicators of Russian subversive actions by carefully analyzing how gray-zone conflicts emerge.
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