Small Wars Journal
  • “It's so damn complex. If you ever think you have the solution to this, you're wrong and you're dangerous.”
    -- Lieutenant General (Ret.) H.R. McMaster
  • “So, I’m going to give you a proposed solution,” Zinni told the group. “I’m going to say we need to create an interagency command” to manage America’s response to complex or “hybrid” security crises. “I hate to use that word, ‘command,’ because I don’t mean it to be military.”
    -- General (Ret.) Anthony Zinni
  • “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
  • “As our Afghan partners began to understand the value of 1st SFAB advisors, they asked us for more. So our teams partnered with more and more Afghan units as the deployment progressed.”
    -- BG Scott Jackson, 1st SFAB Commander
  • “Strategic pioneers who create theories, concepts, and other intellectual tools for use by doers have been scarcer than hen’s teeth throughout human history. Sun Tzu, Mahan, Liddell Hart, Herman Kahn, and Bernard Brodie, the world’s first nuclear strategist, are prominent exceptions. Lenin, Mao, Giap, Billy Mitchell, and a handful of others who practiced what they preach, remain even rarer.”
    -- Colonel (Ret.) John Collins, The Warlord Emeritus

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.



Full Moon Jump - Soldiers participate in a night airborne exercise to seize Cheshnegirovo Airfield in Bulgaria, 18 June 2019. The parachute jump was part of Swift Response 2019, a U.S. Army Europe multinational exercise to demonstrate readiness and interoperability among NATO allies. Photo by Army Capt. Erica Mitchell.

"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 Brandon Quintin | Mon, 06/24/2019 - 9:58am | 0 comments
After the Massacre at the Wabash in 1791, George Washington and Henry Knox reformed the U.S. Army as the Legion of the United States. The Legion was a self-contained modular army composed of four identical combined-arms units. During the Fallen Timbers campaign, the Legion proved itself the ideal force structure for use in small wars. The Brigade Combat Team is the closest the U.S. Army has ever come to reviving the legionary structure.
by Nicholas J. Lorusso | Mon, 06/24/2019 - 7:25am | 0 comments
Author’s Note - This paper is a modified version of a submission to the Joint and Combined Warfighting School - Hybrid faculty in partial satisfaction of the requirements for Joint Professional Military Education Phase II. The contents of this submission reflect my original views and are not necessarily endorsed by the Joint Forces Staff College or the Department of Defense.
by Franklin C. Annis | Sun, 06/23/2019 - 8:14pm | 0 comments
Flipping through the pages of this little book, I quickly realized that there was likely little there. Inside this 5”x8” book you will find 1”+ margins with the text more than single spaced. With maybe 100 words per page, the content of this entire book is probably a ~10 page “academic” article.
by Celia Belt | Sun, 06/23/2019 - 1:15am | 0 comments
I’d been walking the floors of the burn unit at Brooke Army Medical Center since 1998. At the onset of the war, things truly heated up. I no longer had the time to visit with each patient and their families; there were far too many. I was the only volunteer actively visiting patients and I was also heading up a nonprofit for burn survivors, the Moonlight Fund, that consumed much of my time. With so many new burn survivors entering the fold due to the war, I was frantically working to raise the funds to meet the mounting needs of so many wounded military members and also continue to care for civilians who had suffered burn injuries.
by Andrew Fox | Sat, 06/22/2019 - 12:46pm | 0 comments
This essay is a fictional memo set in the year 2060 written by a future U.S. national security advisor to a future president that recounts the preceding four decades of U.S. military involvement. The memo follows the post-mortem assessment used by LTC Matt Cavanaugh, itself an homage to retired Major General Dunlap’s essay. Unlike those pieces, however, this essay presents a more optimistic view based on a defense & intelligence community that made hard decisions and difficult investments in the 2020s which allowed the U.S. armed forces to prevail in contested conflicts throughout the rest of the century.
by Mario Hoffmann | Fri, 06/21/2019 - 9:33am | 1 comment
Strategic competitors like Russia and China are using old technologies in new ways while also employing new advanced technology to fight their enemies in all domains (space, cyber, air, sea, and land). This required the U.S. Army to evolve and adapt the way it wants to fight by publishing “Multi-Domain Operations (MDO) 2028” as the cornerstone for the Joint force to militarily compete, penetrate, dis-integrate, and exploit future adversaries. While air, land, and sea domains have been prevalent since World War II, the relative new-comers of Cyber and Space are still establishing their doctrinal foundation in modern warfare.
by John Turner | Thu, 06/20/2019 - 12:54am | 0 comments
If Washington is serious about dismantling TCOs and disrupting cocaine trafficking into the United States it must prioritize more assets to support Admiral Faller’s efforts so that his command is better resourced to interdict and reduce the flow of dangerous, illicit drugs from entering the United States. If not, Washington should lower its expectations and rethink its regional objectives.
by Mike Sweeney | Wed, 06/19/2019 - 2:06pm | 0 comments
Failed dreams of a U.S. withdrawal from the Middle East were very much on my mind while reading a pair of excellent – if flawed – articles in 'War on the Rocks' by Anand Toprani. In the first essay, published in January, Toprani provides one of the best explanations you’ll find on the vagaries of oil pricing and supply, as well as a cogent case for why oil is unlikely to be “just another commodity” anytime soon. In his second essay, published in May, he further underscores that the Persian Gulf remains an irreplaceable source of oil production and argues, to this end, that the United States needs to continue its Cold War role as the region’s strategic guarantor.
by Jonathan F. Lancelot | Wed, 06/19/2019 - 2:16am | 3 comments
It could be argued that Presidential war power was significantly reduced by Congress' War Powers Act of 1973, yet today in the post-September 11th, 2001 era, we are dealing with a Presidency that has been allowed to mismanage conflict through successive administrations leaving it to the other to end conflicts started by the former. Herein lies the contradiction of limit and power embedded within the DNA of the Presidency: the limit of time to see a conflict from beginning to end, and the enormous amount of presidential war power to start a conflict without the consent of Congress. This is where mismanagement begins and ends, with the new occupant of the office and their advisors.
by Jim Davitch | Tue, 06/18/2019 - 11:58am | 2 comments
This essay is a fictional memo set in the year 2060 written by a future U.S. national security advisor to a future president that recounts the preceding four decades of U.S. military involvement. The memo follows the post-mortem assessment used by LTC Matt Cavanaugh, itself an homage to retired Major General Dunlap’s essay. Unlike those pieces, however, this essay presents a more optimistic view based on a defense & intelligence community that made hard decisions and difficult investments in the 2020s which allowed the U.S. armed forces to prevail in contested conflicts throughout the rest of the century.

Blog Posts

by Defense One | Mon, 06/24/2019 - 8:38am | 0 comments
"Homeland Security is looking for innovative robots that can navigate underground tunnels and communicate with headquarters."
by The Wall Street Journal | Mon, 06/24/2019 - 6:57am | 0 comments
"The U.S. plans to impose major new sanctions on Iran, signaling it won’t ease pressure despite a diplomatic push by European leaders to persuade Washington and Tehran to show restraint."
by SWJ Editors | Sun, 06/23/2019 - 9:43pm | 0 comments
Via Yahoo News - "... U.S. Cyber Command launched a retaliatory digital strike against an Iranian spy group that supported last week’s limpet mine attacks on commercial ships, according to two former intelligence officials."
by | Sun, 06/23/2019 - 8:57pm | 0 comments
"... It’s the start of a four-year effort, known as Project Metropolis, that leaders say will transform the way Marines train for urban battles. The effort is being led by the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory, based in Quantico, Virgina. It comes after service leaders identified a troubling problem following nearly two decades of war in the Middle East: adversaries have been studying their tactics and weaknesses, and now they know how to exploit them."
by Voice of America | Sun, 06/23/2019 - 9:49am | 0 comments
Senior government and opposition leaders in Afghanistan have warned that armed hostilities in the country will continue if ongoing negotiations between the United States and the Taliban fail to jump-start a sustainable intra-Afghan peace dialogue.
by The Washington Post | Sun, 06/23/2019 - 1:06am | 1 comment
President Trump sought to lower tensions with Iran on Saturday, extending an olive branch to “start all over” with nuclear talks and even thanking Tehran for its “wise” decision not to shoot down a U.S. military plane with personnel on board.
by The Wall Street Journal | Sun, 06/23/2019 - 12:46am | 0 comments
"‘These people want to push us into war... It’s disgusting,’ president told confidant."
by The Washington Post | Sat, 06/22/2019 - 4:16pm | 0 comments
"President Trump approved an offensive cyber strike that disabled Iranian computer systems used to control rocket and missile launches, even as he backed away from a conventional military attack in response to its shoot-down Thursday of an unmanned U.S. surveillance drone, according to people familiar with the matter."
by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty | Sat, 06/22/2019 - 3:09pm | 0 comments
"The United States and an international task force have threatened Iran with financial penalties, accusing it of violating international guidelines designed to block money-laundering and funding of terror groups."
by Voice of America | Sat, 06/22/2019 - 2:31pm | 0 comments
"Britain's Middle East minister travels to Tehran Sunday for talks with Iranian officials. Britain's Foreign Office said Andrew Murrison will call for "urgent de-escalation in the region." Murrison will also discuss Iran's threat to cease complying with the nuclear deal that the United States pulled out of last year."
by The Washington Post | Sat, 06/22/2019 - 1:35pm | 0 comments
"The plans had been drawn, the targets set, and a single word from the commander in chief would have activated the U.S. military to strike a foreign adversary. But President Trump was having second thoughts."
by Reuters | Sat, 06/22/2019 - 11:52am | 0 comments
"U.S. President Donald Trump said Friday he intends to nominate Army Secretary Mark Esper to be secretary of defense, the White House said in a statement."
by The Washington Post | Fri, 06/21/2019 - 7:46pm | 0 comments
"President Trump stepped away from the precipice of an immediate military conflict with Iran on Friday, calling off a strike in response to Iran’s downing of a U.S. surveillance drone."
by The New York Times | Fri, 06/21/2019 - 7:20pm | 0 comments
"President Trump said Friday morning that the United States military had been 'cocked and loaded' for a strike against Iran on Thursday night, but that he called it off with 10 minutes to spare when a general told him that 150 people would probably die in the attack."
by The United States Institute of Peace | Fri, 06/21/2019 - 8:55am | 0 comments
"The Afghan government is calling for a cease-fire to facilitate intra-Afghan dialogue, but the Taliban has yet to agree."