Asymmetric warfare

"Asymmetric warfare" has been a buzzword for too long. Even high-price weapons producers have used it to promote supposedly special weapons and equipment.

My understanding of the matter tells me that asymmetric warfare is extremely unlikely to be won or lost by a military decision. Its very nature is not the superficial "tank vs. RPG" equipment & logistics asymmetry. The relevant asymmetry is another one - the strengths of both war parties are so different that they cannot enter a common arena to fight for a decision (at least not quickly).

One party always has a military superiority, but lacks the political superiority. In a cabinet war, this would by a total victory à la Clausewitz. In wars between peoples that don't want to give way it's a stalemate. The violence by military and paramilitary forces keeps the conflict hot, but a decision is very difficult to achieve as no superiority (military/political) can easily overcome the other one.

I created this matrix to illustrate the problem; a power wins a hot conflict with superiority in both areas, it loses with inferiority in both areas.
In total wars or cabinet wars (low loyalty of the people to the cause) the power with military superiority wins - that's the "conventional" pattern of thinking.
Asymmetric warfare happens in a non-cabinet, non-total war when military and political superiority are not united in one war party, but split between the warring powers.

Asymmetric warfare decisions that focus on the differences in employed weapons & equipment are in my opinion useless.
(Bomb traps, mines, remotely-controlled explosives, improvised explosives, snipers, ambushes, hit and run tactics, assaults on support troops, mortar raids, terror against civilians, abuse of civilians and prisoners, killing of civilians - this isn't exclusively para-military or even exclusively terrorist. It was standard for conventional armies in the previous century and partially even for millenniums.)

Sven Ortmann

1 comment:

  1. Here's a link to Hugo Grotius' "De Jure Belli ac Pacis" that I think you'll find interesting (Grotius was dutch, but this is translated from latin...).


    American colonial and revolutionary era conflicts create a different cultural expectation regarding the virtue of said conflict, as we've never really entered a fight without this or that regional or sub-cultural faction dissenting. Here's a anecdote Germans will appreciate:

    During WWII three German POWs escaped from a POW camp in the backwoods of western Virginia, and made their way up into the smokey mountains, as they knew if they made their way to a German speaking area they'd shake their pursuers. The Smoky Mountains are lightly populated and close enough to Bavarian hill country to prove easy for the (three) soldiers to navigate, and so after a day and a night on the move, they decided it was safe to find a place to rest. So when they stumbled across a log cabin next to a brook with a wrinkled old lady sitting on the porch, they settled down by the stream and ignored her. When she walked into her cabin and came out and killed them all with her 12 gauge they were very surprised....

    Well, when the camp guards arrived to find a little old mountain grannie on her porch holding he shotgun and ooking proud as punch over shooting three POWs, they didn't know what do think. "Grannie", one of the guards said "why'd you go and shoot these here German boys? Dint you see by them uniforms they was prisoners of war?"

    "Germans?!" the grannie replied, suddenly starting to weep in remorse. "God forgive me I didn't know they was German or I'd never of kilt 'em... I thought they was Yankees!"