Small Wars Journal
  • "It is easier to get permission to put a hellfire on the forehead of a terrorist than it is to get permission to put a message between his ears."
    -- Anonymous PSYOP Officer (H/T Dave Maxwell)
  • “For Dave Dilegge and Bill Nagle, founders and editors of Small Wars Journal. They gave the counterguerrilla underground a home, at a time when misguided leaders banned even the word ‘insurgency,’ though busily losing to one. Scholars, warriors, and agitators, Dave and Bill laid the foundation for battlefield success: our generation owes them a debt of gratitude.”
    -- David Kilcullen ('Counterinsugency' Dedication)
  • “Once Europe existed in a Dark Age and Islam carried the torch of learning. Now we Muslims live in a Dark Age.”
    -- Mahmud Tarzi
  • “Tunnel systems and irregular urban warfare are essentially advanced methods of cover and concealment. Given that the mission of the infantry is to “locate, close with and destroy the enemy by fire and maneuver,” if the enemy can prevent us from locating him or closing with him, it will be nearly impossible for us to destroy him.”
    -- William Birdzell
  • “The Vietnam War was arguably the most traumatic experience for the United States in the twentieth century. That is indeed a grim distinction in a span that included two world wars, the assassinations of two presidents and the resignation of another, the Great Depression, the Cold War, racial unrest, and the drug and crime waves.”
    -- Donald M. Goldstein

Home, Above Feeds, Annoucement



New and now available at Amazon - Blood and Concrete: 21st Century Conflict in Urban Centers and Megacities provides a foundation for understanding urban operations and sustaining urban warfare research. This Small Wars Journal (SWJ) Anthology documents over a decade of writings on urban conflict. In addition to essays originally published at SWJ it adds new content including an introduction by the editors, a preface on “Blood and Concrete” by David Kilcullen, a foreword "Urban Warfare Studies" by John Spencer, a postscript “Cities in the Crossfire: The Rise of Urban Violence” by Margarita Konaev, and an afterword “Urban Operations: Meeting Challenges, Seizing Opportunities, Improving the Approach” by Russell W. Glenn. These essays frame the discussion found in the collection’s remaining 49 chapters. Blood and Concrete continues the legacy of Small Was Journal's coverage of urban operations, conflict and combat. - Dave Dilegge, Robert J. Bunker, John P. Sullivan, and Alma Keshavarz, Editors.


Aerial Approach - An Air Force RC-135 approaches the boom of a KC-135 Stratotanker during a mission over an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, 10 September 2019. Photo by Air Force Master Sgt. Russell Scalf.

"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

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by Kevin Butler | Wed, 09/18/2019 - 4:06am | 0 comments
Less than a decade after weathering massive geo-political upheavals from the Arab Springs, the Middle East is on the verge of yet another crisis; the plummeting price of crude oil. “Rentier states” in the Middle East, have for several decades, secured their status-quo by building an overwhelming portion of their economy dedicated to the sale of crude oil. While the rentier system has been successful in propping up Middle Eastern governments for decades, the downside to this system is the economic and political uncertainty created by the rapidly changing value in a single commodity.
by Thomas A. Drohan | Mon, 09/16/2019 - 5:34pm | 1 comment
As a follow-on to "The US National Security Strategy Needs Combined Effects", this paper shows how combinations of US National Security Strategy (NSS) effects can integrate US National Defense Strategy (NDS) objectives to create strategically significant advantages.
by Travis Prendergast | Mon, 09/16/2019 - 12:33am | 1 comment
During the American occupation of Haiti from 1915-1934, the United States Marines officered a native constabulary called the Gendarmerie d’Haiti. Throughout the occupation, the Gendarmerie built infrastructure and assisted in the administration of the country. The success of the Gendarmerie can be compared with the failures of the Coalition Provisional Authority during the occupation of Iraq.
by Brandon Brooks | Sun, 09/15/2019 - 12:38am | 4 comments
This paper examines the major shifts in irregular warfare, defined here in accordance with the U.S. Department of Defense’s Joint Operating Concept as “a violent struggle among state and non-state actors for legitimacy and influence over [a designated] population.” While there have been several noteworthy evolutions in the ways in which insurgents wage war, this paper argues that the most consequential developments in irregular warfare have occurred on the state-side, reasoning that Western democracies’ embrace of “soft” COIN approaches has spread worldwide.
by Cameron Evers | Fri, 09/13/2019 - 7:31pm | 0 comments
Sudan has begun to send thousands of soldiers next door to Libya to shore up renegade General Khalifa Haftar’s failing siege of Tripoli. The move, believed to be bankrolled by United Arab Emirates (UAE), marks a new phase in Sudan’s post-Bashir foreign policy that further defines the feared mercenary paramilitary, Rapid Support Forces (RSF), as a bartering chip and proxy army for Saudi Arabia and the UAE, first in Yemen, and now Libya.
by James King | Thu, 09/12/2019 - 1:29pm | 4 comments
Advising foreign forces is hard, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be doing it. Since the inception of the Military Transition Team (MiTT) early in the Iraq war people who were disgruntled by the fact they had to serve on one or didn’t understand how they worked would rail against their existence.
by Katherine Voyles | Wed, 09/11/2019 - 9:14am | 0 comments
What follows here sketches some of the currents, undercurrents and crosscurrents of Mattis’s re-emergence before zeroing in on the themes, issues and concerns that dominate his writing. Hearing from people talking about Mattis is an important prelude to hearing from him on his own terms, and the current runs in the other direction too, hearing from Mattis himself is an important rejoinder to hearing other people talk about him. The Mattis that emerges in his own writing is a different Mattis than the one argued over.
by Michael Gladius | Wed, 09/11/2019 - 12:08am | 3 comments
In order to see how the Artillery Army fits into Multidomain Operations, we must look at its doctrinal and organizational logic. Firstly, the doctrinal: Western culture and mindset is based on trinities, and doctrine contains three components. The first component involves the differences between firepower warfare, guerrilla/ranger warfare, and mobile warfare (a trinity within a trinity, no less!).
by Riley Murray | Mon, 09/09/2019 - 5:10am | 2 comments
Andrew Krepinevich’s “Army Concept” provides a useful model for understanding the mindset military organizations take towards advising operations, which subsequently shapes outcomes, including the U.S. Air Force’s advising efforts in small wars. Efforts to advise the South Vietnamese Air Force and Afghan Air Force demonstrate that U.S. Air Force advising concepts have been poorly suited towards irregular conflicts, creating counterproductive effects.
by Pedro Cardoso | Fri, 09/06/2019 - 1:39am | 0 comments
Corruption, money laundering and alliances with national and Brazilians’ drug dealers and with the Russian mafia. Mexico’s “El Chapo” Guzmán’s Sinaloa Cartel is in Portugal and has set up a cocaine transhipment base for central and northern Europe. The Mexican drug dealer sons control the cocaine shipment to Portugal. This article was originally published as “A cor do cartel” at the Portuguese magazine Expresso (Lisbon) on 17 August 2019.

Blog Posts

by Voice of America | Wed, 09/18/2019 - 5:53am | 2 comments
The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously Tuesday to extend and strengthen the mandate of its mission in Afghanistan, overcoming threats of a Chinese veto.
by Associated Press | Wed, 09/18/2019 - 12:12am | 0 comments
"The assault on the beating heart of Saudi Arabia's vast oil empire follows a new and dangerous pattern that's emerged across the Persian Gulf this summer of precise attacks that leave few obvious clues as to who launched them."
by Associated Press | Wed, 09/18/2019 - 12:10am | 0 comments
"The Taliban promised Washington during months of negotiations that the United States would never again be attacked from Afghan soil. Such a pledge would have included al-Qaida, which planned the 9/11 attacks from inside Afghanistan."
by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty | Tue, 09/17/2019 - 9:55am | 0 comments
"At least 46 people have been killed and dozens wounded in two Taliban attacks in Afghanistan."
by The British Broadcasting Corporation | Tue, 09/17/2019 - 9:24am | 0 comments
"A suicide bomb attack at an election rally in Afghanistan has killed at least 26 people."
by The Wall Street Journal | Tue, 09/17/2019 - 9:06am | 0 comments
"Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi calls on followers to intensify their efforts after losing control of territory."
by The Wall Street Journal | Mon, 09/16/2019 - 9:30pm | 0 comments
"Officials say intelligence points to Iran as staging ground for strikes, as allies weigh retaliation."
by Bloomberg News | Mon, 09/16/2019 - 7:30pm | 1 comment
"Following the Houthi attack on Saturday on Saudi Aramco’s crude-oil processing facility, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made an obvious and necessary point: Blame Iran."
by The Wall Street Journal | Mon, 09/16/2019 - 2:36am | 1 comment
"Documents prepared by U.S. federal prosecutors outline for the first time the possible role of the former Venezuelan president in drug trafficking."
by Agence France-Presse | Mon, 09/16/2019 - 1:33am | 0 comments
"The U.S.-led coalition said Sunday that 'good progress' was being made in implementing a buffer zone in northern Syria along the Turkish border."
by Voice of America | Mon, 09/16/2019 - 1:25am | 0 comments
U.S. President Donald Trump says American forces are 'locked and loaded' to respond to the fiery attacks on one of Saudi Arabia’s largest oil fields and the world’s biggest crude oil stabilization facility.
by Voice of America | Sun, 09/15/2019 - 4:47pm | 0 comments
U.S. Air Force Gen. Tod Wolters, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), told a small group of reporters that Afghan elections “probably won’t be perfect,” but the 29-member North Atlantic alliance will “plan and execute to the ends of the Earth” to try to make the September 28 vote as safe as possible.
by The Wall Street Journal | Sun, 09/15/2019 - 11:57am | 0 comments
"Saudis race to repair the damage from the strikes, which forced the suspension of more than half of the kingdom’s output."
by Voice of America | Sun, 09/15/2019 - 1:34am | 0 comments
Saudi Arabia’s energy minister said Saturday that drone attacks on two Aramco oil facilities by a Yemen Houthi militia group have cut the kingdom’s oil production in half.
by Al-Monitor | Sun, 09/15/2019 - 12:11am | 0 comments
"Preemptively targeting Iran and its proxies in Syria, or 'mowing the grass,' as the Israelis say, remains the centerpiece of the strategy to deny Iran a 'land bridge' to its proxies in Lebanon, via Iraq and Syria. Such a route would pose an abiding threat to Israel. Read more: