In a sophisticated combination of quantitative research and two in-depth case studies, Larisa Deriglazova surveys armed conflicts post–World War II in which one power is much stronger than the other. She then focuses on the experiences of British decolonization after World War II and the United States in the 2003 Iraq war. Great Powers, Small Wars employs several large databases to identify basic characteristics and variables of wars between enemies of disproportionate power. Case studies examine the economics, domestic politics, and international factors that ultimately shaped military events more than military capacity and strategy.

Larisa Deriglazova is professor of history in the Department of World Politics at Tomsk State University. She was a scholar in the Wilson Center’s Kennan-Fulbright Scholarship program in 2009.


Preface: Asymmetric Conflicts—An Equation with Many Unknowns


1. Origin and Development of the Asymmetric Conflict Concept

2. Identifying the Asymmetry Factor in Armed Conflicts

3. The Dissolution of the British Empire and Asymmetric Conflicts in Dependencies

4. The US War in Iraq, 2003–2011

Conclusion: Analyzing Asymmetric Conflicts Using the Model

Appendix: List of Armed Conflicts from the COSIMO Database Used in the Study



“Both the framework Deriglazova provides and the data analysis she offers can help scholars to crystallize what they think is missing from the current research of asymmetric relations and offer several potential hypotheses to test. Likewise, students in upper-division undergraduate seminars or graduate courses will find this a useful work to grapple with some of the many outstanding questions we have about asymmetric conflict.”—Michael A. Allen, International Studies Review

Great Powers, Small Wars is a well-researched, quantitative book that attempts to identify basic characteristics and variables between great powers and adversaries of lesser power to determine why the stronger power is defeated in war.”—Ken Miller, Military Review

“It should be on the shelf of every scholar of military or political science, because it provides not only a useful analytical tool, but also a solid theoretical foundation to its use.”—Peter A. Kiss, War in History

“It places the effort to understand the phenomenon of asymmetrical conflict on a sounder foundation and should be accessible to the larger community of experts interested in the issue.”—R. Craig Nation, US Army War College

“There are good traditional histories and there are major quantitatively oriented data bases that feed theory construction, but no study has effectively combined the two. In this respect, the author has written a pioneering work.”—Bruce W. Menning, Command and General Staff College