The Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology, edited by George Ritzer, 2nd edition, Malden: Wiley-Blackwell
2 Pages Posted: 28 Feb 2015 Last revised: 25 May 2015
Date Written: October 1, 2014
Asymmetric warfare is commonly defined as a mode of combat where the aims, means, or methods of the conflict parties are substantively dissimilar. Most scholars further presume a gaping power disparity between the warring parties in asymmetric conflicts. However, a two-fold distinction can be made, separating asymmetry of strength from asymmetry of weakness. The former rests on an actor’s ability to play to its own strengths, most often through superior technology and military capability. The latter refers to a strategy that seeks to exploit an opponent’s weaknesses, often through indirect and drawn out warfare (Münkler 2006). While narrow conceptions of asymmetric warfare largely focus on differences in military and economic power, more comprehensive understandings of the term emphasize that disparities in political and military strategy, notions of time, and organizational characteristics of the conflict parties are equally important as differences in material capabilities.
Keywords: armed conflict, new wars, asymmetry, military strategy, conflict research
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