Asymmetric Warfare

Asymmetric warfare describes armed conflict dynamics in which belligerents differ in their relative military power and capabilities, often significantly. Contemporary examples include modern professional armies arrayed against non-state actors, insurgencies fighting government regimes, and transnational armed groups using terrorist tactics against “soft” (i.e., civilian) targets. The concept’s usage grew throughout the 1990s and especially after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States homeland. Increasingly, asymmetric warfare has evolved to describe not only mismatched capabilities among armed forces but also the complexity of power in war: namely, the idea that a militarily weaker actor can turn a stronger party’s strengths against it or exploit its unrecognized vulnerabilities (e.g., abiding by the laws of war, open societies, technological sophistication) to achieve unexpected victories. As ...

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