Americans and Asymmetric Conflict: Lebanon, Somalia, and Afghanistan
As the War in Iraq continues to rage, many in the White House, State Department, Department of Defense, and outside government are left to wonder if it was possible to foresee the difficulty the United States is currently having with Sunni nationalists and Islamic extremists. Recent American military experience offers significant insight into this question. With the fog of the Cold War finally lifting and clarity returning to the nature of conflict, the dominance of asymmetry in the military experience of the United States is all too evident.
Lebanon (1982-1984), Somalia (1992-1994), and Afghanistan (2001-2004) offer recent and relevant insight into successes and failures of American attempts to fight adversaries utilizing asymmetric conflict to combat the United States when it intervened in these three states. The results illustrate the difficulty of engaging adversaries unwilling to wage a conventional war and the need for improved strategic and tactical doctrine.
It is easy, Lowther writes, for Americans to forget the lessons of past conflicts as the politics of the present dominate.... His purpose here is to highlight some of history's recent lessons so that we may move forward with an awareness of what experience offers.