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Wars of Attrition

In wars of attrition the objective is not to decisively defeat the adversary in the near or mid-terms but to do so over time, by gradually undermining its capacity and/or will to fight. Wars of attrition can be “conventional”; that is, between the militaries (armies, air forces, and navies) of states, often, but not always, of comparable size and power, or “asymmetric,” between actors of highly disparate size and power, including non-state actors. Warfare, of all types, is designed primarily to achieve political ends and thus constitutes an essential part of an encyclopedia of political behavior.

Conventional wars of attrition are conducted primarily against an adversary’s military and on the battlefield’s front lines. Think of the pitched and blood-soaked battles of World War I, in which ...

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