Things I learned (military vocab)

Part of what I love about translating is the diverse documents and themes that I get to read and learn about. There are so many things that would probably never have crossed my path were it not for the little bits of research I need to do when translating complex (or not-so-complex) documents.

So here is a selection of interesting military facts I learned while translating this past week:

Uti possidetis (Latin for “as you possess”) is a principle in international law that territory and other property remains with its possessor at the end of a conflict, unless otherwise provided for by treaty. In French, this is often referred to as “le principe de l’intangibilité des frontières“, although in the Helsinki accords, the term used is “inviolability” in English and “inviolabilité” in French. There seems to be a slight difference in these meanings that often goes unnoticed. While a border is always “inviolable” under international law, its “intangibility” is relative, since borders can be modified under a peaceful agreement.

A2/AD (Anti Access/Area Denial) is a device used to prevent an adversary from occupying or traversing an area of land, sea or air. The specific method used does not have to be totally effective in preventing passage (and sometimes is not) as long as it is sufficient to severely restrict, slow down, or endanger the opponent. The French call this “les stratégies de déni d’accès“. This covers everything from stakes being planted in ditches in Medieval warfare to modern anti-ship missiles currently being brandied about in the South China Sea.

A Theatre of Operations (TO – “théâtre d’opérations” in French) is a sub-area within a “theatre of war”, which is itself an area or place in which important military events occur or are progressing. The boundary of a TO is defined by the commander who is orchestrating or providing support for specific combat operations within the TO. But TOs even exist in peace time. In this case, they are divided into “strategic directions” rather than military regions.

Asymmetric warfare (or asymmetric engagement – une guerre asymmétrique”) is war between belligerents whose relative military power differs significantly, or whose strategy or tactics are very different. This is typically a war between a standing, professional army and an insurgency or resistance movement. Such struggles often involve strategies and tactics of unconventional warfare, the weaker combatants attempting to use strategy to offset deficiencies in quantity or quality.


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