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Irregular Warfare (IW) Definition of Unconventional Warfare (UW)

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Home > Unconventional Warfare > IW Definition of UW

The Irregular Warfare Joint Operating Concept provides clarification on how Unconventional Warfare (UW) is one of the five operations or activities of Irregular Warfare (IW).  The text in quotes below is from the IW JOC document.

 Irregular Warfare Joint Operating Concept, Version 2.0, dated May 17, 2010. (Adobe Acrobat PDF file)

"     Unconventional warfare in IW.  The joint force may employ unconventional warfare to counter irregular threats, such as states that wage irregular or proxy warfare. When direct U.S. military power projection or intervention against state sponsors of irregular threats is militarily or politically undesirable or infeasible, unconventional warfare provides decision makers with an alternative to direct U.S. military intervention in order to counter irregular threats. Pursuant to a national policy decision, the joint force may conduct unconventional warfare to induce change in a foreign government’s behavior that is contrary to U.S. national interests. It may also be conducted to isolate, destabilize, or undermine a hostile foreign government. Finally, it may be used to enable the overthrow of a hostile regime or a shadow government or force the withdrawal of an occupying power by supporting or fomenting an insurgency.46 Additionally, unconventional warfare may be executed independently or in conjunction with other operations executed by the joint force. In the latter case, unconventional warfare would support the main effort. For example, the joint force might conduct UW against a revolutionary movement while at the same time conducting FID with the host nation.

     While primarily considered a SOF activity, the conduct of unconventional warfare requires the full capabilities of the joint force to provide enablers.  Unconventional warfare requires significant assistance from partner nations providing the following support: basing for joint forces, overflight rights, sanctuary, and external support for resistance forces. Additionally, allied nations may provide SOF units to work with resistance forces in conjunction with U.S. forces

     Unconventional warfare requires significant interagency participation because the activity includes support to both the military and political aspects of internal opposition. Various forms of diplomatic, information, economic, or military pressure may be used to increase the effects of an insurgency or resistance movement. Unconventional warfare operations will require a highly capable joint force that conducts collaborative planning, resourcing, and execution of unconventional warfare related activities with key USG agencies such as the Central Intelligence Agency and the Department of State. Each of these agencies provides essential capabilities and expertise to support unconventional warfare operations.

     Joint force strategists and planners should be capable of recognizing and assessing the conditions that are appropriate for successful unconventional warfare operations. This includes the preparation of center of gravity analyses, vulnerability assessments of unfriendly and potentially adversarial regimes, and the identification and assessment of existing or potential insurgent or resistance movements. As in counterterrorism operations, unconventional warfare entails non-traditional military approaches that often necessitate low-profile or clandestine operations including support."


Books about Irregular Warfare (IW)

Modern Irregular Warfare: In Defense Policy and as a Military Phenomenon.  By Friedrich August Heydte.  New York, NY: New Benjamin Franklin House, 1986.  Read about the author here - Freidrich Heydte (Wikipedia).  Find out more or buy from Amazon.com by clicking here Modern Irregular Warfare .

 


 

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