Asymmetric warfare

Asymmetric warfare (or asymmetric engagement) is the term given to describe a type of war between belligerents whose relative military power differs significantly, or whose strategy or tactics differ significantly. This is typically a war between a standing, professional army and an insurgency or resistance movement militias who often have status of unlawful combatants.

A Viet Cong base camp being burned during the Vietnam War. An American private first class (PFC) stands by.

Asymmetric warfare can describe a conflict in which two belligerents' resources differ in essence and, in the struggle, interact and attempt to exploit each other's characteristic weaknesses. Such struggles often involve strategies and tactics of unconventional warfare, the weaker combatants attempting to use strategy to offset deficiencies in quantity or quality of their forces and equipment.[1] Such strategies may not necessarily be militarized.[2] This is, in contrast, to symmetric warfare, where two powers have comparable military power and resources and rely on tactics that are similar overall, differing only in details and execution.

Asymmetric warfare is a form of irregular warfare – violent conflict between a formal military and an informal, less equipped and supported, undermanned but resilient and motivated opponent. The term is frequently used to describe what is also called guerrilla warfare, insurgency, counterinsurgency, rebellion, terrorism, and counterterrorism.