Small Wars Journal has been the source of much debate and criticism recently regarding the publication of the article “Full Spectrum Operations in the Homeland: A ‘Vision’ of the Future”. This essay by two academics, one of whom a retired Army colonel, addressed the issues surrounding the potential future requirement to use US military forces to support civil authorities to combat threats on American soil. This discussion was illustrated with a hypothetical future scenario that envisioned extremist groups committing violence and erecting checkpoints, leading to a call for federal intervention. The scenario and the choice of actors within it have led to significant criticism that has overlooked the strengths of the Small Wars Journal. Specifically, this is a “big tent” forum that boldly publishes controversial and contrarian viewpoints of all strains, relying on intelligence and experience of its readership to comment, debate, discount, and / or support articles and elements within them. We do not think for our readership, nor do we bill this as a platform preaching authoritative views.
There is little that we can say that will mollify the most strident critics of the essay, including those that have taken this as an opportunity to spew hate and even threats. We will not debate the merits of the article, as that likewise will be fruitless. More importantly, such a debate is not our role. Our volunteer editorial staff does not take sides on the issues. We publish almost all and let the readership come to their own conclusions. Thus, when critics say that the “influential” Small Wars Journal is espousing a position, they are missing the point of our forum. This is not an official mouthpiece. It does not have an editorial slant. And it is not for profit. We simply provide a space for intelligent discussion that we hope will remain free, professional, and—while impassioned—civil.
The crux of the issue is that in the scenario, the authors stated that the extremists were motivated by tea party ideals. The use of little “t” tea party and the statement that the extremists were motivated by tea party ideals rather than members of the Tea Party was a nuance the editorial staff read in the essay and that many others have not. Nearly all political positions can be taken to extremes, sometimes violent. Had we instructed the authors to choose a different example, not only would we likely have drawn criticism from a different front, but we would have introduced an editorial bias that drew us deeper into the morass.
Despite the vitriolic criticism of the choice of scenario, the criticism that bites the deepest is that of the quality of the article. The authors have been critiqued for an excessive focus on doctrine and a failure to fully achieve their own professed goals in the essay. As editors and within our own guidelines, we could have done more to improve this aspect of the content. However, as is stated in our editorial vision, we lean toward providing topical and timely content over fully refined works. We are not an academic journal publishing four editions a year at costs that are prohibitive to the non-institutional customer. In fact, we are unpaid (with a few barely paid in the best of times), with other full-time employment, yet still manage to post an average of five journal articles a week, in addition to daily blog posts, news updates, and providing a world-class discussion board all free of charge and with minimally invasive advertising.
In closing, we appreciate the passionate debate and great interest of one of our articles, however we hope that our new readers will take the time to understand our position and our devoted readers will remember that the policies that have made us a premier forum for debate will sometimes bring controversy.