Small Wars Journal


Journal Articles are typically longer works with more more analysis than the news and short commentary in the SWJ Blog.

We accept contributed content from serious voices across the small wars community, then publish it here as quickly as we can, per our Editorial Policy, to help fuel timely, thoughtful, and unvarnished discussion of the diverse and complex issues inherent in small wars.

by Greg Kleponis | Sun, 05/13/2018 - 8:04am | 0 comments
While there is a Coalition effort in the conflict in Afghanistan, the overwhelming bulk of the resources, personnel and money come from the US. The main vector of those monies that flow into the Afghan economy, both directly and indirectly, come through the US Department of Defense Contracting entity. While the ambitions of the projects funded by the contracting process are noble and the intentions are to elevate the economic and social conditions of the Afghan people are genuine, in many cases the reality is that it is having the opposite effect.
by Jonathan F. Lancelot | Sat, 05/12/2018 - 1:11am | 0 comments
This paper is designed to examine how ISIL has used the Internet to communicate their agenda, and how they can use cyberspace to commit acts of cyberterrorism. We will be looking at the strategic advantage of terrorist organizations claiming responsibility for attacks, and how the Western legal system’s definition of terrorism solidifies this advantage in cyberspace.
by Kevin Ivey | Fri, 05/11/2018 - 10:15am | 1 comment
As ISIL's seemingly unquenchable thirst for violence pushed politicians and voters to prioritize its defeat over almost all other security goals, Al-Qaeda and its worldwide affiliates flew under the radar and seized on the empty space. With attention elsewhere, Al-Qaeda has studied the ISIL experience, quietly surpassing ISIL's capabilities while capitalizing on widespread backlash to the worst atrocities carried out by the pseudo caliphate.
by Ian Edgerly | Thu, 05/10/2018 - 1:11am | 0 comments
The conflict this paper will apply the idea of nationalism as an engine of intra-group instability towards is the long-standing issue between the sub groups of the Kel Tamasheq (commonly referred to as Toureg) in Northern Mali. Ultimately, this paper will seek to provide clarity on what has been defined as an ethnic conflict by many.
by Andrew Zapf, by Joshua Peltier | Wed, 05/09/2018 - 1:04am | 0 comments
The Popular Mobilization Forces comprised of Sunni and Shia tribal militias that have been accepted for registration, salaries, equipping, and supplies by the Iraqi government and trained by the Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve. Political allegiances, tribal influence, and sectarian identity of the PMFs have become heavily politicized and Shia groups dominate resources and favor with the Government of Iraq.
by W. R. Baker | Wed, 05/09/2018 - 12:48am | 0 comments
James H. Willbanks’ biography Danger 79er of General James Francis Hollingsworth (Holly) is a welcomed addition to our understanding important U.S. generals. From his Texas roots, through what became Texas A&M, WWII, Korea, and Vietnam (with points in-between), we read how events and people shaped his perceptions and Army career, especially two other armor officers, General George S. Patton and, later, General Creighton Abrams.
by Charles E. Pickard | Tue, 05/08/2018 - 12:26am | 0 comments
The combined illicit revenue collected by the seven major Drug Trafficking Organizations based in Mexico is staggering. By most estimates, it could be as much as $30 billion per year, a figure which exceeds the Gross Domestic Product of nations like Iceland, El Salvador, and Uganda.
by Robert Chung | Tue, 05/08/2018 - 12:16am | 0 comments
To achieve readiness, we balance Army training and NSA requirements through a continuous process of situational understanding, training prioritization, training methodology, and leader engagement to provide the most effective Service and NSA-related training possible. This article describes how the 717th MI battalion achieves training readiness while executing its ongoing global mission.
by Michael J. Mooney | Mon, 05/07/2018 - 6:09am | 0 comments
If the Islamic State leadership were in fact queried about the reasons for the destruction of their caliphate, what would they say? With the probability of this occurring virtually nil, certain points can be brought to the surface by examining the trajectory of the operational and strategic decisions of the Islamic State from June 2014 to October 2017.
by Madeleine Terry, by Maggie Dene, by Molly Dinneen, by Colin Evert | Mon, 05/07/2018 - 1:37am | 0 comments
In a society where actual governing and problem solving are hindered by systemic disconnection among government agencies, how do we encourage interagency cooperation to better address national security challenges? On Friday, April 20, 2018, the William & Mary (W&M) Whole of Government Center of Excellence held its Inaugural National Security Conference to help answer that question.
by Donald C. Bolduc | Sun, 05/06/2018 - 12:51am | 2 comments
The irregular forces have and will continue to play a critical role in Afghanistan’s constantly evolving and dynamic security environment. They fill a gap created by national, provincial, and district governance dysfunction and corruption. Irregular forces also address unique cultural and social characteristics reflective of Afghanistan’s tribal society.
by S.A. Cavanagh | Sat, 05/05/2018 - 12:07am | 0 comments
PMC contractors like Wagner, are elemental for conducting Russian military strategic doctrine. Wagner is central to Russia’s efforts to project power and influence in former soviet era regions of alliance and secure new opportunities that accomplish Russia’s foreign agenda.
by Joseph J. Collins | Fri, 05/04/2018 - 5:02am | 0 comments
We must temper our optimism. The public in the United States has read comparatively little of the new strategy compared to what it reads about terrorist bombings in Afghan cities. We must be careful of optimistic statements that portend this year is the one where there will be, in effect, “a light at the end of the tunnel,” when at the same time so many terrorist strikes in Afghan cities could have the effect on the U.S. public of a slow-motion Tet Offensive. We must be careful of generating expectations that are not liable to be accomplished in a single year or fighting season.
by Ingrid A. Parker | Fri, 05/04/2018 - 4:45am | 0 comments
As an intelligence organization, we must consider data management processes including “acquiring, validating, storing, protecting, and processing required data to ensure the accessibility, reliability, and timeliness of the data for its users” and organizational stakeholders. More importantly, we need a long-term strategy that organizes, makes sense of, and applies analytics to raw data for real-time, military decision-making, better customer engagement, and critical insights to threat steams.
by Edward L. Gribbins, by Patrick G. Miller | Thu, 05/03/2018 - 12:40am | 0 comments
It is no secret that the Army has struggled with the efficacy of its physical fitness program for decades and has made numerous revisions and countless proposals for sweeping overhauls over recent years. However, the fact remains that too many Soldiers in all demographics are physically unable to accomplish the Army's primary mission.
by Edgardo Ortiz | Thu, 05/03/2018 - 12:23am | 0 comments
The FPD program consists of 30 offices worldwide supporting DoD in-transit personnel and resources. The 470th Military Intelligence Brigade serves as the executive agent for eight out of 13 FPD in the USSOUTHCOM Area of Responsibility. Army led FPDs are located in Brazil, Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Paraguay.
by James King | Wed, 05/02/2018 - 12:21am | 1 comment
From the Collection Battalion to the Army Service Component Command, PIR (and the analysis that goes into answering them) are one the most important tasks of the Intelligence enterprise.
by Joshua Tompkins | Wed, 05/02/2018 - 12:11am | 1 comment
The immersion path concept would require the support of senior leaders and will without a doubt face an uphill battle due to naysayers who are comfortable doing business the same way they were fifteen years ago.
by Christopher Phalan | Tue, 05/01/2018 - 12:21am | 1 comment
The uniqueness of an HHC command is that of the organization itself. Unlike a line company, the HHC is not constituted of platoons, but of primary and special staff sections that essentially work for the higher command, whether it be battalion, brigade, or higher.
by Scott Hammon | Tue, 05/01/2018 - 12:13am | 0 comments
One of the first things INSCOM did after its creation was to conduct an echelon above corps intelligence organization and stationing study. It was this study that recognized the need to provide cryptologic support to tactical military intelligence units.
by Hildred S. Mathews | Mon, 04/30/2018 - 6:45am | 0 comments
The ever-increasing complexity of the operational environment reinforces the necessity of how sustainment is executed in the military. Sustainment within any military organization has one primary objective when executing its wartime and garrison mission- to never culminate due to overreaching your logistical capabilities.
by Martin McCloud | Mon, 04/30/2018 - 2:14am | 1 comment
While the fundamentals of intelligence production and dissemination remain the same, advancements in technology have significantly improved the manner and speed in which the Military Intelligence Brigade (Theater) publishes and distributes finished intelligence.
by James Covey | Sun, 04/29/2018 - 12:09am | 0 comments
The idea of death is disturbing. More disturbing still, is the idea of suicide. Consequently, suicidal ideation is probably one of the most difficult challenges Army leaders grapple with.
by James Chester | Sat, 04/28/2018 - 12:06am | 0 comments
Setting a theater is often considered to be the responsibility of logisticians. In fact, an entire issue in the sustainment counterpart to this publication was dedicated to the concept.
by Christopher Synowiez, by Kyle Gordy | Fri, 04/27/2018 - 1:32am | 0 comments
The purpose of this paper is to layout a methodology for a Deployable Intelligence Support Element in support of the Army Service Component Command.
by Molly Molloy | Fri, 04/27/2018 - 1:08am | 0 comments
Mexican crime statistics tend to elicit one of these reactions:1) Optimistic disbelief, 2) Pessimistic disbelief, and 3) Numbers don’t matter. Mexico has always been corrupt and violent. Build the wall.
by James Emery | Thu, 04/26/2018 - 7:23pm | 0 comments
Ramadan is an opportunity to encourage and initiate increased attacks, suicide bombings, and carnage against perceived enemies around the world, regardless of nationality, location, or religious affiliation. Virtually everything about these attacks and the motivation behind them goes against the core teaching of the Qur'an.
by Ingrid A. Parker | Thu, 04/26/2018 - 8:44am | 0 comments
To demonstrate the direction and guidance to our organizational leadership, the Soldiers and civilians of the 470th Military Intelligence Brigade wrote a series of articles, indicative of how we are building intelligence combat power in the brigade - I want to highlight some of this stellar work that will be published by 'Small Wars Journal' over the next week.
by James Emery | Thu, 04/26/2018 - 7:50am | 0 comments
Everything good in Afghanistan, the Middle East, and similar collectivist cultures, happens through personal relationships. This is the key to obtaining information, cooperation, and support. It can mean the difference between success and failure. Whatever else you achieve, otherwise, may be meaningless if you have not established and maintained the appropriate personal relationships with the most powerful, influential, and helpful people in your respective areas of operation.
by James Emery | Wed, 04/25/2018 - 4:21pm | 0 comments
Ramadan is a time for fasting, prayers, charity, and self-reflection. Many Muslims make personal resolutions for the coming year to improve one or more aspects of their lives. Ramadan is a time of spiritual and personal transformation of the body, heart, mind, and soul.
by Patrick Collins | Wed, 04/25/2018 - 3:02am | 0 comments
As the youngest Theater Special Operations Command in the United States Special Operations Command, SOCNORTH fills a vital capability for our nation and the United States Government. Operating in a complex environment of authorities, resources and threats, SOCNORTH does more with less by cooperating on an enhanced basis with the interagency and law enforcement, as well as partner and allied nations.
by Joanne Patti Munisteri | Wed, 04/25/2018 - 12:15am | 0 comments
Violent extremist groups are using all methods possible to wage a successful long-term campaign using children. These groups infiltrate existing systems, threaten and radicalize important players, use extreme forms of violence to attack those they perceive as non-compliant. No foundation of society is off limits.
by Joanne Patti Munisteri | Tue, 04/24/2018 - 12:17am | 0 comments
Violent extremist groups are using all methods possible to wage a successful long-term campaign using children. These groups infiltrate existing systems, threaten and radicalize important players, use extreme forms of violence to attack those they perceive as non-compliant. No foundation of society is off limits.
by S.A. Cavanagh | Mon, 04/23/2018 - 3:31pm | 0 comments
China’s Aggressive Move to Occupy the Spratly regional waters through Reclamation has proved an effective stratagem, for projection of political, economic and military power. The Hague has ruled China has no traditional claims to the disputed region and the Spratlys are “rocks not islands.” China continues to reclaim and militarize several strategic islands (reefs) and occupies them. The United States, French and British navies exercise freedom of navigation near the new islands, as China warns it will use military force to defend new territorial claims. China has tactically and strategically extended its military “range and influence” with navel bases, airstrips, radar, communications, missile installations and shelters. China has bet on reclamation and occupation and won.
by Chad M. Pillai | Sat, 04/21/2018 - 5:42pm | 3 comments
Afghanistan as another Vietnam conjures images of defeat as U.S. helicopters take the last American off the roof from the embassy. While the Vietnam War was a near-term strategic defeat, in retrospect, it may yet prove to have been a geo-strategic win in the long-run. The same may prove true for Afghanistan in the long-run after a U.S. withdrawal. Like a bad business investment, there are times when you must accept one’s losses and move on.
by Jo Patti | Sat, 04/21/2018 - 12:11am | 0 comments
Every generation needs to be cognizant of those who fought for the foundation of democratic principles which they may presently enjoy. There are many different forms of fighting. How these battles are waged makes for essential historical reporting and often for gripping stories for the public. The divergent types of confrontation and strategies used for victory have been transformed into entertainment in a construct the United States is world famous for…Hollywood movies.
by Jeff Goodson | Fri, 04/20/2018 - 10:55am | 0 comments
Expeditionary economics is an important line of effort in all five kinds of irregular warfare. RAND argues, for example, that the Commander’s Emergency Response Program (CERP) model could play a major role in future foreign internal defense, counterinsurgency and stability operations, as well as serve as an enabler for counter-terrorism actions that are nested with stability ops. Post and Peterson go further, proposing an applied framework for understanding and planning for the economic terrain in unconventional warfare. Although designed for military effect, expeditionary economics nests easily within the larger economic development objectives pursued by civilian organizations.
by Lee Ferran | Fri, 04/20/2018 - 12:06am | 0 comments
The Oscars are long-over, but you're one of those people who still likes to catch up on all the top nominees, right? Well, among that select group are "The Post" and "Darkest Hour," which are both fine movies but, to me, incomplete.
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.
by Sangeet Jain | Sun, 04/15/2018 - 7:41am | 1 comment
The Arms Trade Treaty is a multilateral treaty, regulating international trade in conventional arms. It was envisioned as a tool to prevent conflict and human rights violations fuelled by poorly regulated trade in arms, which could not conceivably be controlled via national legislation alone. The treaty’s initial pace was unprecedented – it’s ratification target achieved in less than two years. It currently has 180 signatories and 89 ratifications. However, in order to be a success, it needs to be universalised, which is among the major items on its current agenda. India had been a vigorous participant in the Treaty’s negotiating process. However, the final draft did not meet its expectations and it chose to abstain when the treaty was put to vote at the UNGA on the 2nd of April 2013. This paper aims to evaluate, by present standards, whether India must re-look its stand taken on the Arms Trade Treaty then.
by Marcel Plichta | Fri, 04/13/2018 - 12:02pm | 0 comments
A ‘New York Times’ column about the Central African Republic (CAR), “Conflict is More Powerful Than Peace”, from two-time Pulitzer winner Nick Kristof, is a big deal. The African nation’s ongoing conflicts constitute one of the least-known political crises of our time. The only substantial coverage CAR received before Kristof’s article was ongoing allegations of sexual abuse by peacekeepers that came to light in 2015. The article has come under fire from commentators for its portrayal of the country, but, despite some egregious errors, Kristof got more right than wrong about the Central African Republic.