Asymmetric Conflicts

This book examines a question generally neglected in the study of international relations: why does a militarily and economically less powerful state initiate conflict against a relatively strong state? T. V. Paul analyses this phenomenon by focusing on the strategic and political considerations, domestic and international, which influence a weaker state to initiate war against a more powerful adversary. The key argument of deterrence theory is that the military superiority of the status quo power, coupled with a credible retaliatory threat, will prevent attack by challengers. The author challenges this assumption by examining six twentieth-century asymmetric wars, from the Japanese offensive against Russia in 1904 to the Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands in 1982. The book’s findings have wide implications for the study of war, power, deterrence, coercive diplomacy, strategy, arms races, and alliances.

• Asks why weaker powers sometimes attack stronger ones, a phenomenon neglected by scholars of international relations • Examines six case studies from this century, including Pearl Harbor, the Yom Kippur War and the Falklands invasion • Challenges the assumption of deterrence theory that greater military capability and the threat to use it will always prevent attack by rivals


Part I. Theoretical Framework: 1. Introduction: war initiation in international relations theory; 2. Explaining war initiation by weaker powers in asymmetric conflicts; Part II. The Case Studies: 3. The Japanese offensive against Russia, 1904; 4. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, 1941; 5. The Chinese intervention in Korea, 1950; 6. The Pakistani offensive in Kashmir, 1965; 7. The Egyptian offensive in the Sinai, 1973; 8. The Argentine invasion of the Falklands/Malvinas, 1982; 9. Conclusion.