With the very volatile situation that now exists between the United States and Iran, it’s necessary that we all have some mastery over certain words. Here’s a basic list that will help you understand the things that may become realities for us:
- Conventional warfare – a form of warfare conducted by using conventional weapons and battlefield tactics between two or more states in open confrontation. The forces on each side are well-defined and fight using weapons that primarily target the opponent’s military. An example would be the Allies versus Germany in WWII. Each side wore unique identifiable uniforms and fought with ordinary weapons.
- Symmetrical warfare – Pretty much the same as conventional warfare.
- Insurgency – a rebellion against authority (for example, an authority recognized as such by the United Nations) when those
- taking part in the rebellion are not recognized as belligerents (lawful combatants). ISIS would be a modern example.
- Guerrilla warfare – a form of irregular warfare in which small groups of combatants, such as paramilitary personnel, armed civilians, or irregulars, use military tactics including ambushes, sabotage, raids, petty warfare, hit-and-run tactics, and mobility, to fight a larger and less-mobile traditional military. A modern example would be Viet Cong.
- Asymmetrical warfare – the opposite of symmetrical and conventional warfare and includes elements of everything said about insurgency and guerrilla warfare. It is exactly what conventional military forces, such as the US military, are not good at dealing with. If Iran is, as claimed, a major sponsor of terrorism in the world it has at its disposal tremendous resources to engage such groups as Hezbollah and Hamas, in asymmetrical warfare. You name a terrorist group and Iran may easily have the ability to engage those non-conventional forces against the interest of the United States.
Non-conventional, asymmetric wars are not easy to fight and they almost always take a long time, are very expensive, cost lots of life, and generate lots of collateral damage.
This is the potential situation we now find ourselves in. It won’t matter if America has the latest and greatest weaponry because those weapons and tactics haven’t proven to be very effective against the kinds of groups Iran can use against us.
These will be terms you’ll hear in the days and weeks to come and I certainly hope they help you better understand what we and the world could possibly be facing.