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How the Weak Win Wars A Theory of Asymmetric Conflict by Ivan M. Arreguin-Toft

How the Weak Win Wars A Theory of Asymmetric Conflict

Part of the Cambridge Studies in International Relations Series


How the Weak Win Wars A Theory of Asymmetric Conflict by Ivan M. Arreguin-Toft

How do the weak win wars? The likelihood of victory and defeat in asymmetric conflicts depends on the interaction of the strategies weak and strong actors use. Using statistical and in-depth historical analyses of conflicts spanning two hundred years, in this 2005 book Ivan Arreguin-Toft shows that, independent of regime type and weapons technology, the interaction of similar strategic approaches favors strong actors, while opposite strategic approaches favors the weak. This approach to understanding asymmetric conflicts allows us to makes sense of how the United States was able to win its war in Afghanistan (2002) in a few months, while the Soviet Union lost after a decade of brutal war (1979-89). Arreguin-Toft's strategic interaction theory has implications not only for international relations theory, but for policy makers grappling with interstate and civil wars, as well as terrorism.


'Arreguin-Toft has made a major contribution to the literature on a fascinating and very timely subject. How the Weak Win Wars should be required reading not only for International Relations scholars but also for would be US presidents who still do not grasp the limits of American military power now on display in Iraq.'

About the Author

Ivan Arreguin-Toft is Fellow at the International Security Program, the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. He has authored numerous conference papers and his articles have appeared in International Security and The Cambridge Review of International Affairs. He is a veteran of the US Army where he served in Augsburg, Germany as a military intelligence analyst from 1985 to 1987.

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Book Info

Publication date

8th December 2005


Ivan M. Arreguin-Toft

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Cambridge University Press


276 pages


Warfare & defence



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