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by Lieutenant Colonel (P) William Stevenson, Major Marshall Ecklund, Major Hun Soo Kim and Major Robert Billings, Small Wars Journal
September 11, 2001 the Global War on Terror began. This global war has brought to life a timeless tactic called irregular warfare (IW). IW is difficult to define, explain, and employ. Yet, with no firm understanding or consensus on what IW actually means, the Department of Defense (DoD) developed the Irregular Warfare (IW) Joint Operating Concept (JOC) on 11 September 2007. Version 1.0 of the IW JOC proposes that IW is a protracted form of warfare, on a global or regional scale, that will require new capability development. Fortunately, for the Joint Warfighter, the intent of the IW JOC was only to further IW discussion, debate, and experimentation intended to influence future IW concepts and capability development. As presented, the definitions and concepts in the IW JOC have unnecessarily created confusion within the DoD by ignoring more than fifty years of experience and doctrine related to the challenges faced by the post-Cold War world and after the events of September 11, 2001.
The history of IW needs closer examination to capture those lessons learned to advance the IW discussion beyond the IW JOC. Given the significance and long-term DoD investments in the concepts presented in the IW JOC, this paper will analyze whether DoD has presented an appropriate definition of IW based on a doctrinal review of IW's roots. The paper will also look at the doctrinal relationship between Low Intensity Conflict (LIC) and IW. If necessary, the authors will propose a more fitting definition for IW that is aligned with its doctrinal characterization.