Vergennes’ Grey Zone: Grappling with the Grey Zone and Hybrid War through French Strategy 1774–1783
The world is arguably returning to great power competition. However, emerging powers are noted as using grey zone and hybrid means short of war. These modes of conflict remain poorly defined, contradictory, and overlapping within the literature. Complicating efforts to understand these phenomena is an overreliance on examples from the 21st century. I partially address this shortcoming by applying Mazarr’s concept of the grey zone and measured revisionism to French strategy 1774–1783, focusing on exploitation of the American Revolution. Building from Hoffman’s understanding of hybrid warfare, I disentangle these overlapping concepts and demonstrate how they are best understood as separate but interrelated. I conclude with comparisons to case of Russian hybrid aggression in Ukraine and provide implications for future grey zone and hybrid warfare research.