Guerrilla warfare with an asymmetric warfare perspective


War is generally interpreted as an act of violence between two or more groups of people to exercise dominance in a disputed area. According to Clausewitz, "War is nothing but a duel on an extensive scale... an act of violence intended to compel our opponent to fulfill our will," directed by political motives and morality. (Clausewitz, 1940, Book I, Ch. I) History records that war has existed since before Christ. The first war in recorded history took place in Mesopotamia in 2700 BC between Sumer and Elam. The Sumerians, under the leadership of King Kish, succeeded in conquering the Elamites. In its development, wars continued to occur, starting with the Greek, Roman, Middle Ages, and World Wars, until now, where the term "asymmetric war" is known, which is referred to as "Generation IV war."

In his article entitled "4th Generation Warfare," Thomas X. Hammes divides modern war into 4 generations with their respective patterns and characteristics: The first generation of modern war was dominated by massed manpower and culminated in the Napoleonic Wars. The second generation, which was quickly adopted by the world's major powers, was dominated by firepower and ended in World War I. In relatively short order, during World War II, the Germans introduced third-generation warfare, characterized by maneuvers. That type of combat is still, in large part, the focus of U.S. forces. Fourth-generation wars, or 4GW, have now evolved, taking advantage of the political, social, economic, and technical changes since World War II. In short, 4GW has evolved along with society to make use of the opportunities it provides (Armed Forces Journal, 2004).

Guerrilla warfare with an asymmetric warfare perspective


Referring to the division of modern warfare, the wars that took place in the pre-Christian period until the period before World War I were patterns of war that relied on the ability of combat troops.

asymmetric warfare

Some of the major wars in history that used the power of combat troops include:

a. Mongolian expansion under Genghis Khan The Mongol expansion was a major expansion of the Mongols led by Genghis Khan to conquer the Eurasian region in the early 13th century. By riding burly horses, Genghis Khan and his troops succeeded in spreading terror on the Eurasian Continent for more than a decade. In 1219, Genghis Khan turned to the West (Europe), namely to areas that had never heard of his conquests. The Mongol troops invaded Europe after successfully subduing the Northeast Asian region. They defeated the Kievan Rus', destroyed the Persian Empire, annexed Poland and Hungary, and threatened all of Europe.

b. Wars of the Napoleon Bonaparte era The wars of the Napoleonic era were a series of wars that occurred during Napoleon Bonaparte's reign of France (1799–1815). This war occurred (primarily) on the European continent, but also in a number of other locations on other continents, and was a continuation of the war sparked by the French Revolution in 1789. This war resulted in significant changes to Europe's military system, particularly in artillery and military organization, and it was also the first time that official conscription was used, doubling the number of soldiers. 

Taking into account the two forms of war along with technological advances, there has been a change in the pattern of warfare. The war, which originally relied on the ability of combat troops, has now shifted to the use of firearms.

Around the 9th century, the Chinese are thought to have been the first to discover explosives or gunpowder. Cannons were the first firearms to use explosives.

In the 13th century, Europeans began to receive gunpowder through the Silk Road trade and began to develop various types of firearms using gunpowder.

This can be seen from World War I, which became one of the biggest wars and took many lives. An estimated 9 million people died in wars as a result of the increasing capabilities of the weapons used. Machine-gun-equipped planes and tanks first saw combat.Chemical weapons on a large scale were also used in World War I.

While World War II was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945, This war involved many countries in the world, including the two major powers that formed two opposing military alliances, namely the Allies and the Axis. The allied bloc consisted of Britain, France, the Soviet Union, and the United States, while the axis block consisted of Germany, Italy, and Japan.

World War II's occurrence is fundamentally linked to World War I, which lasted from 1914 to 1918. World War I had a major impact on the world, namely the large number of deaths as well as social, economic, and political crises that impacted the stability of the countries participating in the war. The outbreak of World War II was a form of dissatisfaction between the countries that lost in World War I and were members of the central block, namely Germany, Italy, and Austria-Hungary, and the countries that were members of the allied bloc spearheaded by Britain, France, and the Soviet Union.

Countries that are members of the central block felt disadvantaged in the 1919 Versailles Agreement. This agreement was carried out by the two bloc parties that fought in World War I but was felt to be beneficial to the allied bloc. In this case, there are several differences between World War I and World War II. This difference is mainly due to technological developments, which have increased significantly, giving rise to new tactics and strategies. During World War I, aircraft, which were initially used more for observation, now played an important role in warfare because they were equipped with modern artillery.

The use of modern warships, submarines, and tanks also played an important role in World War II. One of the famous maneuvers in World War II was the "blitzkrieg." In German, "blitzkrieg" means lightning attack. This method contrasted with that of World War I, where soldiers defended themselves in the trenches while trying to seize the enemy's trenches. The "blitzkrieg" strategy is a combination of troops that move quickly to destroy the opponent's defenses. The "Blitzkrieg" relied on continuously moving armored infantry supported by fighter aircraft at close range.

After successfully crushing Poland with this maneuver, Germany turned its troops toward Western Europe. Within a period of approximately one month, Germany managed to conquer France, the Netherlands, and Belgium. Germany's success in conquering many countries in a short time is an example of how to use and coordinate land, air, and sea forces quickly. World War II ended in 1945, starting with the defeat of Germany by the Soviet Union and ending with the surrender of Japan after the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. World War II was the deadliest war in history, with an estimated 70 million casualties. This pattern of war was used by America in the 1991 Gulf War.

At this time, according to Hammes, we are facing the Fourth Generation War. Generation IV war is a complex war because war is no longer just a battle that prioritizes the strength of human or machine resources. War is carried out not only by military means but also through political, economic, socio-cultural, ideological, and other measures. Asymmetric warfare is frequently used to describe Generation IV War in popular literature. The term "asymmetric warfare" was originally used to describe conflicts between two parties that have different strengths, so that the weaker party will try to exploit the weaknesses of the stronger party with strategies and tactics that are different from conventional warfare. Tomes (in Cordesman & Seitz, 2008:33) describes asymmetric warfare as "conflicts in which the resources of two belligerents 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, with the "weaker" combatants attempting to use strategy to offset deficiencies in quantity or quality.

Underlying this, the development of unconventional tactics and strategies is not only used when there is a conflict between parties who have significant differences in strength. In the many conflicts that are happening at this time, almost all parties involved tend to use unconventional methods. This is because the current conflicts tend not to be total wars. Conflicts that occur are often caused by more complex factors and appear in the form of small wars, low-intensity conflicts, and sub-national conflicts. Conflicts like this become not only asymmetric in dimension but also irregular. In this regard, Dr. Thomas A. Marks said that the use of the term "asymmetric warfare" has begun to be abandoned and replaced with "irregular warfare," which is considered more appropriate to describe the current war conflicts. Because it involves all components of the state and makes use of advances in science, technology, and sophisticated communication, irregular warfare is complex. 

This is in accordance with the statement of Kiras (2007), which states that irregular warfare is a war or acts of violence carried out by non-state actors, including terrorists and rebels. Terrorism is carried out by a small group by instilling fear in civilians to achieve certain political goals. On the other hand, rebellion is carried out through coercion and violence for certain political purposes (Kiras, 2007: 166). In this case, James Kiras (2007: 168173) formulates several key components of the new irregular warfare strategy. Time is stated as the most important component. Time must be used as efficiently as possible to organize wars and determine strategies to defeat opponents. The second component is that by paying attention to the space component, irregular warfare can choose a difficult terrain to wage war on, to the detriment of the opponent's situation.

Support is the third important component; without strong support, terrorists and insurgents will not achieve victory. Clausewit (1993: 720; in Kiras, 2007: 171) even states that support is a center of gravity. The last component is the legitimacy needed by terrorists and insurgents to gain support. This irregular phenomenon then gave rise to the term "irregular warfare." The war, which was originally thought of as just an expansion of territory due to a change of power or annexation Then it is actually seen as a field for changing mentality and ways of thinking, and it is this way of thinking that ISIS uses in playing its role, so that the ISIS group has been categorized as a form of modern rebellion because it has used modern technology to build weapons.


Referring to the explanation above, it can be concluded that war will be the logical last step taken by every group or country when its "critical" interests are threatened. War is not a rhetorical and legend passed down from the nation's forefathers; war is a reality that will undoubtedly occur at any time, with means, ways, and methods that are still evolving today, known as "asymmetric war" or "Generation IV war." However, over time, the use of the term "asymmetric warfare" has begun to be abandoned and replaced with "irregular warfare," which is considered more appropriate to describe the current war conflicts. Because it involves all components of the state and makes use of advances in science, technology, and sophisticated communication, irregular warfare is complex. Besides that, irregular warfare is also a war or acts of violence carried out by non-state actors, including terrorism and rebels. As a result, what needs to be observed and focused on when developing a strategy for dealing with irregular warfare wars is how sensitive we are in reading the most likely and closest threat trends, as well as how to prepare defense and military organizations to win a war. This is very relevant to the language of the world war expert philosopher from China, "Sun Tsu," which says, "Know yourself. Know your enemy. A thousand times we fight. A thousand times we will win." (Sun Tzu, translated by Lionel Giles, 2016).

Thus, this article was created; hopefully, it can contribute ideas and be used as a reference in understanding guerrilla warfare from an asymmetrical war perspective. I hope it is useful.

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