Why irregulars win: asymmetry of motivations and the outcomes of irregular warfare
Ballow, Andrew R.
MetadataShow full item record
The U.S. military is first-rate, yet it struggles to fight and win irregular wars. Surprisingly, throughout the course of history great powers have had difficulty with small wars. One must ask then, why and how do irregulars win as often as they do? The answer to this question will enable the United States to support irregulars more effectively, and defeat irregulars more efficiently. This thesis considers seventeen irregular conflicts between WWII and the present day to determine why irregulars win when they do, and how asymmetries of motivation can affect the outcome of irregular wars. A mixed methodology, including heuristics, process tracing, and comparison of case studies is used to evaluate irregular wars and the motivations of the combatants. The findings suggest that asymmetries of motivation only partially explain why irregulars succeed. Irregulars can succeed when motivations are symmetric as well as asymmetric. Internal conflicts that exhibited symmetrical motivation were often long, bloody, and costly affairs resolved primarily by negotiations. Alternatively, when asymmetries of motivation have existed, the weak were able to influence intrinsic and extrinsic motivations to coerce their adversaries to quit. Ultimately, the findings from this thesis indicate that opinion and public support significantly influence an actor's motivation and will to fight. In light of this, this thesis suggests that SOF should focus on advising irregulars to shape opinions and perceptions to undermine their opponents' will to fight. Furthermore, the U.S. government should focus more on the application of political and psychological warfare to enable U.S. SOF operations in support of both counterinsurgency and unconventional warfare operations.
RightsThis publication is a work of the U.S. Government as defined in Title 17, United States Code, Section 101. Copyright protection is not available for this work in the United States.
Showing items related by title, author, creator and subject.
Elusive armies and Invisible Hands: Combining Conventional and Guerrilla Forces from 1776 to the Present Dugan, James C. (Monterey, California. Naval Postgraduate School, 1998);The purpose of this thesis is to examine the performance of hybrid forces - forces containing both irregular and regular components - in protracted, theater-level campaigns. It seeks to determine how the hybrid force ...
Hargrove, Paul (Monterey, California: Naval Postgraduate School, 2016-12);The Russian experience with irregular warfare runs deep. Russian forces used irregular warfare to defeat Napoleon's army in 1812. Russia conquered vast territory in the latter half of the 19th century, defeating irregulars ...
Sanger, Neil T. (Monterey, California. Naval Postgraduate School, 2011-12);An observational study of tropical cyclone spin-up is performed using dropsondes and satellite imagery from Supertyphoon Jangmi and Hurricane Georges. Additionally, ELDORA data are analyzed in Tropical Storm Jangmi. The ...