Accession Number:



Tickling the Dragon's Tail: The Destabilizing Effects of an Irregular Warfare Critical Mass

Descriptive Note:

Technical Report,26 Jun 2017,24 May 2018

Corporate Author:

US Army School for Advanced Military Studies Fort Leavenworth United States

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Over time a metaphorical critical mass, constructed of global irregular warfare actors, state and non-state, has developed. The core is now active and exists within an enabling contemporary environmental structure. State warfare hegemony has decreased conventional competition and increased asymmetrical strategies. The result of this has been the emergence of irregular warfare as a prominent strategy and a self-propagating chain reaction of irregular warfare activity. This activity is releasing increasingly dangerous levels of destabilizing effect, which is less visible, more difficult to discern, and slower to manifest, yet has a devastating potential yield. This paper reviews irregular warfare theory and history, and describes the contemporary operational paradigm. It analyzes the effect of cumulative irregular warfare activity and discusses prescriptive approaches to the problem. It concludes that, if stability is an objective, then counter-irregular warfare must be holistically undertaken with strategies to reduce conventional warfare competition. Irregular warfare must not be casually used as a convenient outlet for competition below the threshold of war, the potential damage of unlimited irregular warfare will be significant and lasting.

Subject Categories:

  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics
  • Land Mine Warfare

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