Small Wars Journal
  • "If in order to kill the enemy you have to kill an innocent, don't take the shot. Don't create more enemies than you take out by some immoral act."
    -- General (Ret.) James Mattis
  • “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
  • “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
  • “My views on treating allies with respect and also being clear-eyed about both malign actors and strategic competitors are strongly held and informed by over four decades of immersion in these issues. We must do everything possible to advance an international order that is most conducive to our security, prosperity and values, and we are strengthened in this effort by the solidarity of our alliances.”
    -- Secretary of Defense James Mattis
  • “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

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An Air Force B-2 Spirit bomber takes off from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, on 14 January 2019. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Thomas Barley.

"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 Gary Anderson | Tue, 01/15/2019 - 1:11am | 0 comments
Before he resigned, former Defense Secretary James Mattis was reportedly working in conjunction with the Department of State to revise US policy in the Middle East. Whatever vision Mr. Mattis had will have likely died when he left office - but he had the right idea in undertaking a review.
by Bill Dahl | Tue, 01/15/2019 - 12:29am | 0 comments
During my investigative journalism series regarding public health and environmental hazards in Jalisco, Mexico, one question that continued to rise to the top was corruption. In my research, I identified a superb expert: Dr. Jose Ivan Rodriguez-Sanchez. He is currently in residence at Rice University’s James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy – Mexico Center.
by SWJ Editors | Mon, 01/14/2019 - 3:35pm | 0 comments
Just released - "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.
by Ron Penninger | Mon, 01/14/2019 - 12:15am | 0 comments
United States Soldiers, Privates and Generals, deserve access to unbiased, unredacted phenomenological reporting from the battlefield. In no way does this diminish the value, skills, and cognitive ability of the G2 or of national agencies. Rather, this capability is a much needed and as of yet, unmined treasure of data on the enemy, neutrals, and friendlies. DoD should place this tool in the hands of every leader from COCOM to fire team NCO.
by Matthew A. Horning | Sun, 01/13/2019 - 12:10am | 4 comments
The advent of the Internet and the global interconnection of data has generated a path to oust combat overmatch as ‘the’ game changer. Instead, information dominance will be the characteristic that will win future wars. The organization that has the most relevant, timely, and actionable information will be victorious in battle, even against a combat overmatch force. Instead of seeking combat overmatch in our future investment strategies, we should be seeking a strategy that gives us Information Overmatch.
by Tamim Asey | Sat, 01/12/2019 - 12:42am | 1 comment
Here we are eighteen years later with a resurgent Taliban and US/NATO achievements not only not consolidated but more fragile than ever and the Afghan state weaker with an unusual President in the White House, a growing war fatigue in the west and a divided Washington over the fate of its military engagement in the country.
by Phil Walter | Fri, 01/11/2019 - 8:56am | 5 comments
Phil Walter, the founder of Divergent Options, has distilled all his thoughts related to counterinsurgency into five simple rules. These are not guidelines, not principles, but rules. As such, adherence to these rules is not optional, unless you desire to fail.
by Ben Zweibelson | Thu, 01/10/2019 - 10:09am | 5 comments
Today, there might be few words as overused and fraught with multiple disciplines claiming ownership as the term ‘design’ and associated ‘design thinking’, ‘design practice’ and other variations. ‘Design’ has become one of the buzzwords along with ‘synergy’, ‘innovation’, ‘machine learning’ and ‘augmented intelligence’ within defense circles, but of all of these terms it seems that ‘design’ is the most debated and convoluted.
by Dave Dilegge | Wed, 01/09/2019 - 12:22am | 7 comments
I first posted this short piece at the Urban Operations Journal on 28 February 2003 and reposted it here at SWJ on 17 December 2007. Here are the considerations, again.
by Whitney Kassel | Tue, 01/08/2019 - 2:20pm | 0 comments
Murad’s advocacy, willingness to tell her heart-breaking story hundreds of times, and tenacity pushed a nearly impossible win across the finish line. Now Trump’s rash choice on troops in Syria may reverse that work. If and when the Yazidis begin to trickle back into Sinjar, they will have Murad, and very few others, to thank.

Blog Posts

by Marine Corps Times | Tue, 01/15/2019 - 1:10am | 0 comments
"A group of 300 Marines and sailors recently completed a rotation in Central America that could be the foundation of a new multinational task force for everything from natural disaster to security responses."
by Military Times | Tue, 01/15/2019 - 1:03am | 0 comments
"The Pentagon announced late Monday that it is extending the mission of active duty troops to the Mexico border through September, marking almost a year-long domestic deployment of forces there."
by Deutsche Welle | Tue, 01/15/2019 - 12:55am | 0 comments
"The US and Turkish presidents moved from Twitter to the telephone to exchange their views over the US-allied Kurdish fighters in Syria. Washington is insisting the anti-"Islamic State" fighters should not be harmed."
by SWJ Editors | Mon, 01/14/2019 - 6:00pm | 0 comments
America at War: This Map Shows Where in the World the U.S. Military Is Combating Terrorism by Stephanie Savell and 5W Infographics - Smithsonian Magazine
by Stars & Stripes | Mon, 01/14/2019 - 9:30am | 0 comments
"The task force was developed in the wake of the 2012 Benghazi attacks on U.S. diplomatic buildings in Libya, which resulted in the deaths of four Americans, including U.S. ambassador Christopher Stevens. It was a wake-up call for U.S. Africa Command, which lacked its own forces at the ready to send in an emergency."
by The Wall Street Journal | Mon, 01/14/2019 - 12:09am | 0 comments
"President Trump’s National Security Council asked the Pentagon to provide the White House with military options to strike Iran last year, generating concern at the Pentagon and State Department, current and former U.S. officials said."
by The New York Times | Mon, 01/14/2019 - 12:07am | 0 comments
"Senior Pentagon officials are voicing deepening fears that President Trump’s hawkish national security adviser, John R. Bolton, could precipitate a conflict with Iran at a time when Mr. Trump is losing leverage in the Middle East by pulling out American troops."
by The Hill | Mon, 01/14/2019 - 12:05am | 0 comments
"President Trump announced in December that we are pulling out of Syria and cutting our forces in Afghanistan by half. The statements took everyone by surprise, including at the Pentagon, and generated a tsunami of commentary. Lost in most of the rhetoric was any context about the nature of the war that the U.S. is actually fighting in those countries."
by The Washington Post | Mon, 01/14/2019 - 12:03am | 0 comments
"President Trump dispatched national security adviser John Bolton on a cleanup mission a week ago, with a three-day itinerary in Israel that was intended to reassure a close ally that Trump’s impulsive decision to immediately withdraw troops from Syria would be carried out more slowly and with important caveats."
by Asia Times | Sun, 01/13/2019 - 3:35pm | 0 comments
"Current discussions in US media regarding the US’ troop withdrawal plans in Syria are so patently directed at Trump politically. His detractors have a field day lampooning him and his top officials than about the evolving US strategy in Syria and Iraq – more appropriately, the “Syraq” strategy."
by Jerusalem Post | Sun, 01/13/2019 - 2:47pm | 0 comments
"On Tuesday, Maj.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi will enter the 14th floor of the Kirya in Tel Aviv to take over as the IDF top officer from Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, who will be exiting the building for the last time. Kochavi will assume the post of Israel’s 22nd Chief of Staff during times that are turbulent, both militarily and politically. Militarily, the IDF is contending with Iran on its northern borders while Hamas continues to push Gazans towards the security fence in the south, and the atmosphere in the West Bank remains tense."
by Voice of America | Sun, 01/13/2019 - 1:33am | 0 comments
"The U.S. said late Friday that it is implementing the orderly withdrawal of forces from northeast Syria that are involved in the fight against the Islamic State terrorist group. Pentagon spokesman Commander Sean Robertson said in a statement that Operation Inherent Resolve is implementing the withdrawal within a framework coordinated across the U.S. Government."
by The Brookings Institution | Sat, 01/12/2019 - 8:35am | 1 comment
"The center of gravity in the U.S.-led NATO mission in Afghanistan should be modified. The focus should not be on nation-building writ large. Nor should it be on helping the Afghan government extend its control over more of the country’s territory—a desirable, but nonessential, objective. Rather, the emphasis should be squarely on making the Afghan security forces more resilient and capable."
by Associated Press | Sat, 01/12/2019 - 12:32am | 2 comments
"A U.S. defense official says no American troops have withdrawn yet from Syria, but some military cargo has been pulled out. The official said the movement of equipment is part of what the military calls the start of a deliberate withdrawal from Syria, where about 2,000 troops have been working with a coalition of Syrian Kurdish and Arab fighters to defeat the remnants of the Islamic State group."
by Associated Press | Sat, 01/12/2019 - 12:29am | 0 comments
"U.S. officials say the Pentagon is finalizing plans that would send hundreds of additional active-duty troops to the U.S.-Mexico border for several more months to support the Department of Homeland Security. The troops would install another 160 miles of concertina wire in Arizona and California."