Small Wars Journal

Editorial Policy

Small Wars Journal publishes serious, authentic voices from across the spectrum of stakeholders in small wars to add richness, breadth and depth to the active dialog that occurs in many cloistered venues.  In this, we seek input from everyone ranging from the soldier and interagency practitioners of small wars, to their leadership, to those that make and inform policy at the national and international level.  This is an international issue, so we encourage international participation.

We believe that responsive publishing and open dialog around well formed ideas grounded in experience and/or deep study (hopefully both) serves our community better than the protracted processes found in other venues to incrementally advance the rigor of a piece before its eventual exposure to light.  We want to publish viewpoints on today's issues today, rather than in months or years.
We screen submissions so that we are reasonably convinced that the articles we publish are worthwhile additions to the dialog in the community.  To us, that means they are:
  • An offering concise and tightly argued enough to be worthy of the time of our busy readers;
  • Serious, thoughtful work from a stakeholder worth understanding, if not necessarily agreeing with;
  • Relevant and of interest to practitioners of small wars;
  • Reasonably factual, analytical, or otherwise substantive; and
  • Written well enough that the message comes through clearly.
Our experimentation with various approaches to peer review has led us believe that the vast expertise of our readership and the immediacy of their response via open comments is far better vetting than a review panel we could assemble and labor slowly through.
We do not screen articles for their compliance with a house position or agenda. The flip side of that is that we do not necessarily agree with what we are publishing. We do not pretend to own the dialog or preach any gospel.  SWJ does not promote any particular position, other than one of rigorous reflection and cross-examination given the complexities of small wars.  The point is not for us, the authors, or for any site user to be right, but for all of us to be more informed and better.
We would like to provide our authors more editorial review than they get, which is next to none. We only make minor formatting and mechanical edits; we'd do more if we were better staffed. In the meantime, let's not let your red pen or our lack of enough of them get in the way of good ideas reaching the right eyes and ears promptly.
While we screen submissions, we do not and cannot fully vet authors and facts. Problems will come up from time to time. Authors who choose to submit their work to us do so courageously, realizing that they are subject to a public wire brushing by our discriminating and vocal readers for any errors. We trust our audience to appreciate the distinction between inaccuracies that do not foul the rest of the work, and major issues: either deal-breaker errors or deception that we were too dumb and busy to interdict before publishing.  If the latter two come up, we will deal with them as they arise. If livable errors come up, note and move on.
We are happy to publish unpopular positions, provided their unpopularity is due to their inconvenient substance. Occasionally, sacred cows do make the best burgers; at least, they are worth revisiting for all their pros and cons. But we are no more interested in whiny contrarianism without a pragmatic discussion of alternatives and considerations than we are in mindless drifting with the prevailing winds.
In order to better serve our readers (and help you get your message to them), we are instituting the following guidelines on article length.  While we do not have the page space problem of a print format, your readers do have a time problem when it comes to digesting all of the information available to them, not to mention the tyranny of their daily jobs.  If you want to be read, you have to be concise, unless your name is Kissinger.  We accept works in three general length categories.  These categories do not preclude us from publishing works that merit special consideration, but do not expect us to publish a 50 page opinion piece, again unless your name is Kissinger.  Please note that anything longer than a 750-1000 word op-ed requires a 200-word abstract.  In the shorter formats, please provide references as embedded links to the maximum extent possible.  For the longer formats, all quotations and references should be fully cited.  You may use whatever format your field accepts, but please ensure that the citations are complete (i.e., full names, titles, publishers, dates, journal volumes and numbers, web address if online resource, and page numbers), allowing readers to find the works you reference.
  • Op-ed pieces are 750-1000 words in length and advance an opinion or thesis on a current topic in a very tightly argued format.  While your opinion should be based on facts and figures, the length here does not permit elaboration of detailed support.  These pieces should not solely be a rant, but should offer some form of policy prescription.  That is, if you are going to criticize, offer a solution or a way toward one.
  • Essays are approximately 2,500 words in length and provide more room for elaboration of concepts and provision of support.  These pieces should form the bulk of what SWJ publishes.  A 200-word abstract that states your thesis or argument must accompany your submission, this both assists in the editorial process and allows you to essentially advocate your argument in the hope that busy readers will invest their time in reading more.  
  • Papers are in the range of 6,000 words in length.  Papers of this length will not be read by many readers unless the argument is compelling and the support and data given in the paper is unique.  Original primary source research, first-hand accounts of value to our readership, or truly unique and valuable arguments that require this amount of space for elaboration will be considered for publication.  If you do not think your paper meets these criteria, we highly suggest you get out the red pen and cut your paper back to a length that will warrant the time of a very busy reader.  A 200-word abstract that states your thesis or argument must accompany your submission, this both assists in the editorial process and allows you to essentially advocate your argument in the hope that busy readers will invest their time in reading more.