Small Wars Journal
  • “We are in a context where a kind of European civil war is emerging, in which our differences and national egos sometimes seem more important than what unites us.”
    -- French President Emmanuel Macron
  • “I think the Mogadishu effect, if I had to define it, is we need to be more careful where we decide to commit US forces, and for what reason, and to make a clear judgment as to what we can and can't do and whether it's in our interests, or we could afford the resources that it would take to make the situation right.”
    -- General Anthony Zinni
  • “With all due respect, I don’t get confused.”
    -- U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley
  • “Out of every one hundred men, ten shouldn't even be there, eighty are just targets, nine are the real fighters, and we are lucky to have them, for they make the battle. Ah, but the one, one is a warrior, and he will bring the others back.”
    -- Heraclitus
  • "The requirement to adapt quickly to unforeseen conditions means that commanders will need additional forces and resources that can be committed with little notice. For efficiency in all forms of warfare, including counterinsurgency, means barely winning. And in war, barely winning can be an ugly proposition."
    -- Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster

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Spanish Colonel Vazquez de Prada, right, the Besmaya task force commander talks with Australian Brigadier Roger Noble, the deputy commanding general of the Combined Joint Forces Land Component Command – Operation Inherent Resolve about training occurring at the Besmaya Range Complex, Iraq. Photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Josephine Carlson.

"Small wars are operations undertaken under executive authority, wherein military force is combined with diplomatic pressure in the internal or external affairs of another state whose government is unstable, inadequate, or unsatisfactory for the preservation of life and of such interests as are determined by the foreign policy of our Nation."

-- Small Wars Manual, 1940

Welcome. Small Wars Journal publishes original works from authentic voices across the spectrum of stakeholders in small wars. We also link you to relevant goings on elsewhere.  Login with your SWJ Username to comment, or Register, it's free. You can start your own threads in the Small Wars Council discussion board, but note that the board requires a separate Council Username. Follow SWJ on Twitter @smallwars.


by David Lewton | Thu, 04/19/2018 - 4:23am | 0 comments
The battlefield is messy, and success often appears ephemeral. U.S. Special Forces deploy to austere and remote locations to confront terrorists that pose no existential threat to the United States. They continue to defend against human suffering at the hands of depraved terrorists and Islamist militants while strengthening defense relationships at a time when revisionist states are actively working to undermine the United States. Two Special Operations Imperatives are helpful concerning the future employment of U.S. Special Forces: understand the operational environment, and consider long-term effects. It is up to U.S. Special Forces senior leaders to ensure Army Green Berets are employed accurately in this complex security environment.
by Michael Senft | Thu, 04/19/2018 - 12:23am | 0 comments
“Why did the lessons of Stuxnet, Wannacry, Heartbleed and Shamoon go unheeded?” asked the inquisitive student to the doleful professor, whose withered, prematurely-aged face bore witness to the shattering of a hyperconnected world. Today students ask the same questions about the Russo-Japanese War and the Spanish Civil War. Voluminous accounts detailed the terrible lethality of modern weaponry at the Siege of Port Arthur and the Battle of Mukden, which foretold the unimaginable bloodshed of the First World War. Likewise, the Spanish Civil War was a harbinger of blitzkrieg warfare and the unspeakable carnage unleashed during the Second World War. Despite insightful analysis and almost clairvoyant assessments, the lessons from both conflicts were largely ignored as they ran counter to prevailing views, established organizational structures and pre-ordained plans. Are we any different today?
by Elizabeth Chalecki | Wed, 04/18/2018 - 12:22pm | 0 comments
This article is the latest addition to the U.S. Army TRADOC G2 Mad Scientist Initiative’s Science Fiction: Visioning the Future of Warfare 2030-2050 project. These stories allow readers to place themselves in a world where familiar meets unfamiliar. This world features a myriad of future technologies forcing paradigm shifts away from current, conventional thinking. The future world is hyper-connected, extremely dynamic, and at times uncertain. Writings portray an environment in which humans, and especially Soldiers, are confronted with complex, rapidly-changing situations outside of the known operational environment of today.
by Carter F. Smith | Wed, 04/18/2018 - 12:19am | 0 comments
Military-trained gang members (MTGMs) have been identified in every wartime period for the United States—from the Revolutionary War to the current conflicts. Active duty MTGMs threaten the cohesiveness of military units and undermine the authority of military leadership, using the military to further their criminal organization’s goals. They are a clear threat to military discipline, bringing corrupt influences, an increase in criminal activity, and a threat to military family members on military installations. MTGMs increase the level of dangerousness to the community with their warfighter training and share their ability to remain undetected by law enforcement or members of the community, which allows their organization to thrive and grow unchecked. Members of 3GEN Gangs benefit from military training in positions like leadership, intelligence analysis, electronic warfare, psychological operations, and finance.
by Cheon Seong Whun | Tue, 04/17/2018 - 2:33pm | 0 comments
With the forthcoming April 27th inter-Korean summit meeting and a potential U.S.-North Korea summit meeting in May, there is growing hope of realizing a nuclear-free and peaceful Korean peninsula. Since North Korea’s nuclear weapons program is what has brought about these historic opportunities, there is no doubt that the main agenda of the two summits should be denuclearization. The fact that there exist two divergent conceptions of denuclearization will be a critical obstacle to the success of the summits.
by John Friberg | Tue, 04/17/2018 - 12:29am | 0 comments
Number 6 of 6 in SWJ's "The Village" series. A book about a small squad of U.S. Marines embedded in a Vietnamese village as a part of the Combined Action Program provides pertinent and timely lessons in counterinsurgency applicable to the current conflict in Afghanistan.
by John C. Hale | Tue, 04/17/2018 - 12:06am | 0 comments
Roger Trinquier accurately assessed that a deliberate and methodical process must be conducted, to defeat an insurgency that does not present a single decisive battle that turns the tide of war. The development of a methodical campaign plan for Counter-insurgency (COIN) requires planners to use a new method of thinking in the way they approach their mission. Campaign Design for COIN incorporates many non-traditional aspects to planning that many have practiced in the field yet have not be codified into doctrine until recently.
by Jody L. Barth | Mon, 04/16/2018 - 2:03am | 0 comments
The Defense Department may have fallen behind its interagency partners in a true “hurry up and wait” fashion characteristic of tactical military operations. It is not too late for the Defense Department – it just needs commitment from its senior military leaders as well as a change in attitude from “hurry up and wait” to “hurry up and work.” Half the world’s population is depending on it.
by Franklin C. Annis | Mon, 04/16/2018 - 12:20am | 0 comments
As the complexity of war increases and training time remains finite, the U.S. Army will be increasingly depended on self-directed learning to maintain dominance of the modern battlefield. The U.S. Army has the difficult task of preparing leaders to operate in complex environments. For decades the Army has struggled to consistently define terms and provide materials to support self-directed learning. This paper examines the constantly shifting definitions within the Army Leader Development Model and suggests corrections to the definitions and design of the model to ensure that self-directed learning within the Army is fully supported.
by Brian E. Frydenborg | Sun, 04/15/2018 - 5:06pm | 1 comment
Last summer, the great dame of modern classical studies, Mary Beard, was subjected to vicious online abuse for simply defending the reality of Roman Britain as a diverse place, as depicted in a BBC cartoon that had provoked the initial outrage from conservative British nativists. Battles of diversity and inclusion, and how we acknowledge the reality of diversity and inclusion, seem to sadly be timeless, then. President Donald Trump and his fans seemed to be pretty happy at the outset of this year to be referring to Africa in excremental terms, mentioning Haiti and El Salvador in the same context. Such behavior adds fuel to allegations of racist intent behind some of the Trump Administration’s policies; at the very least, Trump and senior Republicans seems to believe that severely limiting immigration from these places and others will make America stronger and safer. History shows us otherwise.

Blog Posts

by SWJ Editors | Thu, 04/19/2018 - 2:09pm | 0 comments
The leak of the “Pentagon Papers” by RAND analyst Daniel Ellsberg and subsequent coverage by “The New York Times” and “The Washington Post” forever changed how America viewed the nation’s small wars. SWJ is looking for reviews of Steven Spielberg’s new movie “The Post”. Email dave (at) if interested. I saw the movie last night – thumbs up on my part.
by The New York Times | Thu, 04/19/2018 - 1:31pm | 0 comments
A new audio series following Rukmini Callimachi as she reports on the Islamic State and the fall of Mosul. New York Times subscribers get early access to each episode.
by The Wall Street Journal | Wed, 04/18/2018 - 2:23pm | 0 comments
"A new and dangerous extremist group spawned from al Qaeda is consolidating power in northwestern Syria, while the U.S. has focused on fighting remnants of Islamic State elsewhere in the country and striking the Assad regime’s chemical-weapons facilities. Since surfacing as the country’s most potent militant group, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham has battled Western-backed rebel groups to extend its control across Idlib province, enforcing its version of Shariah and raising funds by taxing flows of people and goods."
by Foreign Policy | Tue, 04/17/2018 - 6:54pm | 0 comments
"Social media has emerged as a key battleground in the U.S. and Russian media campaign to promote their sharply divergent accounts of chemical weapons in Syria. The intelligence assessments presented over the weekend by the United States and France to justify missiles strikes against Syria for its alleged use of chemical weapons in a Damascus suburb relied to an unusual degree on information gleaned from open source material and social media."
by DoD News | Tue, 04/17/2018 - 5:18pm | 0 comments
Iran is exploiting the situation in Yemen, arming opponents of the internationally recognized government and using the country as a "test bed" for malign activities, a top Defense Department official told lawmakers today. The United States, as Defense Secretary James N. Mattis has said, supports efforts for a United Nations-brokered settlement to the conflict, Robert S. Karem, assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, told a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on U.S. policy in Yemen. The conflict, which began more than three years ago, threatens regional security and U.S. national security interests, which include the flow of commerce in the Red Sea, he said.
by The Washington Post | Tue, 04/17/2018 - 4:52pm | 0 comments
"Speaking alongside the flag-draped coffin of a police officer killed in a terrorist attack in southern France, President Emmanuel Macron last month lay blame on “underground Islamism” and those who “indoctrinate on our soil and corrupt daily.” The attack added further urgency to a project already in the works: Macron has embarked on a controversial quest to restructure Islam in France — with the goal of integration but also preventing radicalization."
by DoD News | Tue, 04/17/2018 - 4:42pm | 0 comments
Continue on for a video of today's briefing at the Pentagon.
by Voice of America | Tue, 04/17/2018 - 1:18pm | 0 comments
Some 900 National Guard troops are deploying to the U.S.-Mexico border to support Border Patrol operations, but they will not perform any law enforcement functions while on the White House-ordered assignment, Homeland Security officials said Monday. The majority of the military members who have arrived or are headed to the border are National Guard troops from Texas, with roughly 650. In Arizona, there will be approximately 250, and in New Mexico, about 60. California on Monday said it would no longer allow its National Guard troops to fulfill the mission as requested by the Department of Defense.
by The Wall Street Journal | Mon, 04/16/2018 - 10:12pm | 0 comments
"Under plan, troops would replace American military contingent after ISIS defeat and help secure country’s north; proposal faces challenges. The Trump administration is seeking to assemble an Arab force to replace the U.S. military contingent in Syria and help stabilize the northeastern part of the country after the defeat of Islamic State, U.S. officials said."
by DoD News | Mon, 04/16/2018 - 7:52pm | 0 comments
National Guard troops are deploying to the U.S. border with Mexico to work in support functions for the Department of Homeland Security, including in aviation, operational and infrastructure missions, officials from the departments of Defense and Homeland Security told reporters here today. The Defense Department will provide DHS with up to 4,000 National Guard troops to support the April 4 presidential memorandum authorizing the enhanced presence along the southwest border, said Robert G. Salesses, deputy assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense integration and defense support of civil authorities. The troops will work only in operational support missions, he said, explaining their mission will not include roles in which they would interact with migrants or other people detained by DHS.