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Understanding Asymmetric Warfare - The plight of the strong: Actors, Dynamics and Strategy

By Stefan Jonasson


Asymmetric warfare has gradually become a common occurrence in an increasingly interconnected world, as the interactions between militarily unequal adversaries grow ever more frequent. Because the strong do not always emerge victorious, which we presume they would, the following question is warranted: how can asymmetric warfare be understood? In other words: how are we to understand the processes which enable weak actors to win against vastly superior adversaries. To understand asymmetric warfare - in terms of acting, organising and thinking differently - the military strategic-interaction is examined, since strategy channels the means towards the desired goal. Through the chosen theoretical approach and the examples - the French-Algerian war 1954-1962 and the Sunni-insurgency in Iraq 2003-2005 - it can be concluded that the cooperation of the local population is vital to avoid failure. War-winning strategies where the military matter gain primacy over political have proven less viable, as the unavoidable collateral damage generates a downward spiral ending in a loss of legitimacy or moral decay. War-terminating strategies, providing incentive for cooperation are theoretically a better option but only if the civilians are not harmed. These strategies are still very fragile as they have not only an extensive set of goals making them complex but also because strong actors have large and accessible contact surfaces. As such it is easy to target and disrupt the goals of the strong actor i.e. generating a similar result as a failed war-winning strategy

Topics: Asymmetric warfare, Conflict outcome, Strategy, Algeria, Iraq, Peace and conflict research, polemology, Freds- och konfliktforskning, Law and Political Science
Publisher: Lunds universitet/Statsvetenskapliga institutionen
Year: 2008
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