To what extent does asymmetrical warfare challenge American power? Discuss with some reference to the war in Afghanistan. As the only remaining superpower, America is well positioned to stand up to traditional kinds of an all out war. There is, however, in some quarters a worry about the kinds of “asymmetrical wars” that America is increasingly being drawn into across the world…
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One author notes “Strategists define asymmetric warfare as conflict deviating from the norm or an indirect approach to effect a counter-balancing of force” (Grange, p. 1). A retired serving officer on the other hand notes that “Judging by the multiple applications of the term [Asymmetry] in military journals, - -‘not fighting fair,’ ‘attacking a weak point,’ ‘information or cyber-war,’ ‘public relations war,’ ‘weapons of mass distraction,’ - very few people understand asymmetry’s formal definition” (Thomas, 2001, p. 32) This differs quite significantly from Thomas’s more practical definition: “Asymmetry is a matter of two unlike systems interacting, each within its capabilities” (Thomas, 2001, p. 37). Perhaps the most memorable way of describing what it is like to fight an asymmetric war is given by Thomas as follows in relation to disastrous American involvement in Somalia: “The problem was about ‘apples’ attending an ‘oranges’ event: any hardware-only solution suggests asymmetric vulnerability” (Thomas, 2001, p. 34). ...
225). Bipolarity has the advantage of being evenly balanced. Attention was focused on one major point of friction, namely the ideological gulf between the two main opponents with clear lines drawn up and bystanders encouraged to take up a position on one side or the other. In the absence of Cold War bipolarity, everything takes on a much more complicated turn, and potential areas for conflict spring up in multiple directions. This creates ambiguity and confusion, and the potential for crisis is multiplied. In the short term this situation appears to be working in America’s favor, but it is likely that over time the forces in the world which oppose American values and policies will regroup, so that one or more new super-powers will emerge. China is an obvious candidate for this role, but there are flashpoints in the Islamic world and in Africa which could lead to new geopolitical alliances forming which could threaten America’s supremacy. The work of Joseph Nye on the way that America’s role in the world is changing has done much to explain what the implications are of geo-political shifts that leave America isolated as the only remaining superpower. For Nye, this power has three major forms, namely military, economic and “soft power”, which he defines as “the ability to get what you want through attraction rather than coercion or payments” (Nye, 2004, p. 256). American economic dominance on the world markets is one of the ways that soft power works, since cultural artefacts, ideas and ways of doing business travel the globe and create linkages between many other cultures and the American world view. Participation in
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