asymmetric warfare
n. Warfare in which the combatants have markedly different military capabilities and the weaker side uses non-standard tactics such as terrorism.
Also Seen As
The conflict is an example of asymmetric warfare, which does not match the relatively even strength of two conventional military forces. It occurs when a weaker combatant uses nontraditional weapons and strategy in order to obtain a fighting advantage over a stronger opponent. The Palestinians are employing asymmetric tactics in order to achieve concessions from a conventionally stronger Israeli opponent, Cordesman says, attacking Israeli settlements, detonating car bombs, using the media as a 'political weapon,' and even hacking Israeli computers.
—Jason Moll, “CSIS report: No end for Mideast violence,” UPI, August 09, 2001
1995 (earliest)
Prof. T.V. Paul questions this explanation about why nations make war by raising the issue of 'asymmetric conflicts' — those initiated by so-called weaker powers against a country or coalition of superior military force. He cites six cases in the history of such asymmetric warfare between nations, of which one is the Indian-Pakistani war of 1965.
—Shivaji Sengupta, “Why Weaker Powers Start Wars,” The Ethnic NewsWatch, May 19, 1995
You also see the idea behind this phrase referred to as asymmetric conflict. This is a less popular term, but it's slightly older (first citation: 1993). It's used in the earliest citation for this sense of asymmetric warfare.
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